The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Council of Maronite Bishops said Wednesday that they stood by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai’s recent stance that questioned the legality of conditions a package deal would set for the next Lebanese president.
“The fathers confirm that they support everything that was said by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai last Sunday, concerning the adherence to the constitution,” Maronite bishop Samir Mazloum said in a conference in Bkirki, as he was reading out the concluding statement of the council’s monthly meeting.
In his Sunday sermon in Bkirki, Rai had questioned the wisdom and legality of any package deal that includes the election of a president.
“Is this package [aimed at] stalling the election of a president, in anticipation of orders from abroad?” Rai asked his congregation.
Rai’s statement triggered a response from Berri, who said in a statement issued by his media office Monday: “I leave it for history to decide whether the people’s package that I suggested and the [set of ideas] that I proposed at the national dialogue are constitutional or not. There is no need to target dignities.”
Despite opposition from some parliamentary blocs, Berri has maintained that his package proposal is the only solution to end the presidential void, which has entered its third year.
Moments after the bishops' statement was released, Berri was reported to have told his visitors at his Ain al-Tineh residence in Beirut that he supports their stipulations, except for those that contradict the “principles of the national dialogue” and the package deal.
The council also called on civil society movements to pressure the government to find and agree on a new and fair electoral law.
Rival factions have failed up till now to replace the 1960 majoritarian law, used in the most recent polls in 2009, which most parties say does not fairly represent the country’s religious communities.
They also called on Lebanon's security and military institutions to distance themselves from any political disputes.