Beirut (AsiaNews) - Maronite patriarch, Card. Bechara Raï has announced that he will visit Saudi Arabia within the next two weeks, responding to the official invitation from Saudi king Salman and the hereditary prince, and number two in the country, Mohammad bin Salman.

This is the first historic visit by a Lebanese church leader to the ultraconservative Wahhabi kingdom, which has recently launched a series of economic and social reforms, including the opening up of sports arenas and driving to women, as well as the first attempts at emancipation from the fundamentalist view of Islam.

In an interview with Lebanese State TV, Card. Raï confirmed the invitation from the highest Saudi authorities, pointing out that "no special conditions were set for the visit" which "will last one day". "My role - added the Cardinal - is not political and everyone knows who the Maronite patriarch is."

The Lebanese Christian leader remembers that in the past, in 2013, he had received an invitation to visit Riyadh from the former monarch, King Abdallah. However, this trip was never possible, he adds, "for a variety of [non-defined] issues."

In the last period, the Saudi kingdom has initiated a series of reforms, forcefully taken by the hereditary prince, in the context of the "Vision 2030" program that invests in the social, economic, cultural and religious sphere. Historians and analysts recall that Card. Raï’s will be "the first visit of a Christian religious leader since... the time of the Prophet's ". In the past the Cardinal had already made an official trip to Qatar.

An official source of the patriarchate reported that "the invitation was issued by word of mouth" in recent days to the Cardinal by the Saudi business agent in Lebanon Walid Boukhari. A historical visit, the sources emphasized, which once again raises the role of the Land of the Cedara as a "message of pluralism for the East and the West," as Pope John Paul II repeatedly referred to it.

The Maronite Patriarch and Lebanon propose their role as a “bridge" to an Arab world that opens to modernity in a regional context marked by wars - Iraq, Syria - and tensions (Iran and Saudi Arabia, Countries the Gulf and Qatar).

During the flying visit to Riyadh, Card. Raï should also raise the question of Jerusalem and peace in the Holy Land, a decade-old and unresolved problem that gives rise to all the other crises that characterize the region. (DS)


Teachings of Christ

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Exaltation of the Cross

Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance; * grant victory to Your Church over her enemies * and protect Your commonwealth by Your Cross. (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Willingly lifted up on the Cross, O Christ God, * bestow Your compassions upon the new commonwealth that bears Your name. * By your power grant joy to Your Church, * granting her victory over her enemies. * May she have your Cross as the weapon of peace * and the invincible ensign of victory. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th.

Random Proverb

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3:9,10 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Long ago, the wily one cast his weapon and wounded Adam and killed him; Indeed, he completely destroyed the weak man. But now, even if he struck the bodies of the noble men, he did not destroy their spirits. He persuaded the first-created man to fall by words, but not even by deeds, the noble ones. Bewitching the former, he made promises; he made offers to the latter: For Adam, the making of a god; for the martyrs, honor. He offers what he does not have; he suggests bestowing things not in his authority. Therefore, saints, having shattered his scheme, You gained crowns. 

Kontakia of Romanos, On the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia I.