Beirut, Lebanon, Mar 2, 2011 / 22:39 pm
Pope Benedict XVI has written a personal letter to the retiring Cardinal Patriarch of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Church, thanking him for his “service for the greater glory of God and the good of all his faithful.”
On Feb. 26, the 90-year-old Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir of Antioch retired from his position as the leader of more than three million Maronite Catholics. He has served as a bishop for 50 years – 25 of them as his Church's patriarch – and as a priest for 60 years.
Although the outgoing patriarch – like most of the Maronite faithful – resides in Lebanon, difficulties in his homeland transformed his ministry into a global one. Pope Benedict took note of the fact in his letter, recalling how war had dispersed some Maronite Catholics throughout the world.
“You started this noble ministry of the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in the turmoil of the war that bloodied Lebanon for too many years,” he wrote, referring to the civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990. “With the ardent desire for peace for your country, you have driven this Church and traveled the world to comfort your people forced to emigrate.”