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Hezbollah threatens Maronite patriarch with 'negative repercussions' ahead of Israel visit
By REUTERS
16/05/2014
The patriarch is due to accompany the pope on his tour of the Holy Land next week; Lebanese media have spoken out against the controversial visit.
 
BEIRUT - Hezbollah told the head of the Maronite church on Friday that his planned trip to Jerusalem to accompany Pope Francis would have "negative repercussions".

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai has said he will join the pope on his May 24-26 tour of the Holy Land, drawing criticism in Lebanon which remains in a formal state of war with its southern neighbor Israel.

"We presented our point of view ... about the negative repercussions of this visit," Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed, head of Hezbollah's political council, told reporters after meeting Rai at the patriarch's offices in the hills overlooking Beirut.

"We hope that these considerations are taken into account."

Al-Rai’s visit is the subject of great controversy in his native Lebanon, and parts of the media have spoken out vehemently against his visit to Israel, which is still technically in a state of war with Lebanon.

Rai has defended his planned visit, saying it is his duty to receive the pope if he comes to the region. "I'm going to Jerusalem to say this is our city, and Jerusalem is Arab," he told reporters last week.

Rai, a Catholic Cardinal, is the leading official in the Maronite church, which follows an Eastern rite of the Roman Catholic Church. Maronites number about 900,000 in Lebanon, around a quarter of the population, and also have a presence in Syria and Cyprus.

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