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

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)

Pentecost

Blessed are You, O Christ our God, * Who has shown the fishermen to be all wise, * by sending down to them the Holy Spirit, * and through them You have caught the whole world in Your net. * O Lover of Mankind, glory to You. (Troparion - Tone 8)

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

When the Most High descended, confusing tongues, * He divided the nations; * but when He distributed the tongues of fire, * He called all to unity; * and, with one voice, * we glorify the Most Holy Spirit. (Kontakion - Tone 8)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not lose sight of these — keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul." (Proverbs 3:21,22a ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual writer. This sickness is called _prelest_, or spiritual delusion, imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions, or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this sickness -- prelest.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky