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Separate St. Maroun Celebrations in Beirut and Brad, Sfeir Says Maronite Church Keen on Coexistence
(Retrieved from Naharnet on February 9, 2010)

Lebanon's Maronites celebrated the 1600th anniversary of St. Maroun's death on Tuesday in two separate masses held in Beirut's Saint George church and in Brad in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir held the mass at Saint George in downtown Beirut at 11:00 am. The mass was attended by President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and several cabinet ministers, MPs and politicians.

Sfeir said in his sermon that the Maronite church, which was established by St. Maroun, has been keen on coexistence between Christians and Muslims.

As for the mass at St. Maroun church in Brad, it was attended by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, former President Emile Lahoud, Marada movement leader Suleiman Franjieh and Energy Minister Jebran Bassil, who traveled to Aleppo on Monday.

The mass was held at noon and Aoun made a statement after the prayers. He thanked President Bashar Assad and the Syrian people for their warm welcome.

Aoun said Monday his visit to Aleppo bears a historic significance, stressing the trip was aimed at reviving Eastern Christian culture.

"Our visit today bears a historic importance since it sets a new track to revive true Eastern Christian culture because the Christian church originated from here," the MP told reporters upon arrival to the Syrian city.

Aoun also slammed those criticizing his visit to Syria, stressing the occasion was celebrated worldwide rather than only in one church.

As for Franjieh, he said his visit had a religious aspect although he hinted he was proud of being part of the Syrian-Iranian axis.

Ad-Diyar daily said Bkirki circles have expressed frustration at attempts to show a divide among Christians.

"What's happening in Brad is an attempt to target the Maronite Patriarchate and hint that there is a Christian authority that can make decisions to weaken the Maronite church," the newspaper said.

Beirut, 09 Feb 10, 08:20