Cardinal says Lebanon leaders should resign after Beirut blast

Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai the Maronite Patriarch at the Vatican March 5 2013 Credit InterMirificanet 1 Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch, at the Vatican March 5, 2013. |

Lebanon's Maronite Catholic patriarch called for the resignation of the entire Lebanese government Sunday, following the devastating explosion in Beirut last week.

"The angry protest movements we witnessed yesterday confirms the impatience of the oppressed and humiliated Lebanese people, and indicates the determination to change for the better," Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai said in his homily Aug. 9.

"The resignation of a deputy from here and a minister from there is not sufficient. Rather, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the grave responsibility, the government must reach the resignation of the entire government, as it has become unable to advance the country, and to hold early parliamentary elections," the Lebanese cardinal said.

Rai called for an international investigation into the explosion at Beirut's port that killed at least 155 people and injured about 5,000 others. On Aug. 4 a fire that started near the port's large grain silos spread to a warehouse holding 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be made into an explosive. The ensuing explosion's shockwave caused damage within a six-mile radius. 

The patriarch said that the Lebanese people have a right to know why huge amounts of explosive materials had been kept for six years in the dangerous place in the capital. He said it is "necessary to hold everyone responsible accountable for this massacre and catastrophe."

In the weeks prior to the explosion, Rai had spoken out about Lebanon's political and economic crisis, urging the importance of the country maintaining its neutrality in regional rivalries for a peaceful future in the Middle East. 

He underlined this again on Sunday, stating that the disaster in Beirut and the days of protests that have followed require "bold decisions in a democratic state that reconsider … the way it is governed."

"We firmly believe that Lebanon will rise as a state to a new system, which is the "active neutrality regime," Rai said. "This 'neutrality' would achieve stability, secure the good of all Lebanese, and restore the unity of the Lebanese family with all its components and the beauty of its diversity."

The cardinal thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for visiting Lebanon in the wake of the disaster, noting that a distinguishing feature of the Lebanese-French friendship is that "it believes in … the Christian-Muslim partnership in … a neutral, free independent state."

He also expressed gratitude to all the countries who rushed to give assistance after the explosion, and thanked Pope Francis for his prayers and words on behalf of the Lebanese people.

Rai said in his homily that he was offering the Divine Sacrifice of the Mass for the innocent victims and their families, the injured, the missing, and all those who lost homes, businesses, schools, and places of worship. 

The Maronite patriarch noted that among the wounded 120 people are in critical condition and 60 more people remain missing. He said that 8,000 homes were destroyed and 300,000 people displaced by the explosion, and prayed for aid to rebuild and restore the hospitals, schools, and churches that were destroyed. 

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