Maronite Bishops slam rival camps, demand consensus

Following its monthly meeting in Bkirki, the Maronite Bishops’ Council reiterated “with insistence,” on Wednesday its call for government officials to find a consensus president “on time and in line with the Constitution.” Chaired by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, the Bishops’ Council said: “The insistence of both the opposition and the ruling majority on their positions puts the whole country in a critical situation and total paralysis.”

“This [situation] will not only paralyze the democratic regime which characterizes Lebanon but also will split the country in an unprecedented way,” it added.

The council placed blame on both the March 14 majority and the March 8 opposition. “The party that will conduct the electoral process and the one that will boycott it assume the responsibility of such a split. Moreover the biggest responsibility falls upon Parliament … a historical responsibility before God, conscience and the country.”

The bishops’ comments come as time winds down for Lebanon to elect a successor to President Emile Lahoud, who must step down on November 24. Lahoud served one six-year term as stipulated by the Constitution, but his term was extended three years by mandate under Syrian pressure in late 2004.

The Bishops’ Council was also concerned with the security measures parliamentarians have been forced to take during the present political crisis.

“The prison where some MPs have been forced to stay, even if it is the five-star Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel, and the residence of other legislators outside the country, show the extent of political deterioration in the country,” the council said.

More than 40 lawmakers from the ruling majority have taken refuge in the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel for security reasons.

“We need to get out of this deteriorating situation as soon as possible if we want to maintain our country and recover its prosperous past,” the council added.

Tackling the living conditions of the Lebanese people, the bishops said the Lebanese “are fed up with politicians.”

“All they care about is their daily bread and their children’s tuition fees within a country suffering from high cost of living, absence of job opportunities and economic paralysis,” the council said.

According to the bishops, the atmosphere of concern predominating the country has forced many Lebanese, particularly the youth, to leave their country for the Gulf states, Europe, and many other places, including the United States, Canada and Australia.

“This situation will cause the country to lose its citizens year after year,” the council warned.

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