Lebanon's former Maronite head - Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir dies aged 98
Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir former head of the Maronite Church died May 12, 2019 at a hospital in Beirut. He was 98. The Maronite Church which he led as patriarch from 1986 until his resignation in 2011 announced his death. Cardinal Sfeir had been hospitalized two weeks ago with a chest infection. “The Maronite Church is orphaned and Lebanon is in sadness,” the church said. Cardinal Bechara Rai, who succeeded Cardinal Sfeir, called on churches to ring their bells and hold prayers for the late leader, who would have turned 99 on Wednesday.
Early life of Nasrallah Butros Sfeir
He was born on May 15, 1920 in Reyfoun, in the District of Kesrouan. He studied at the Saint-Maron Seminary in Gahzir and at the Major Seminary of St Joseph's University in Beirut. He was ordained a priest on May 7, 1950. He completed his philosophical and theological studies at the Faculty of Theology at the University of St Joseph. In the 1950s, he taught Literature, Arabic Philosophy and Translation at the College of Marist Fathers in Jounieh, before being elected, in 1961, titular bishop of Tarsus of the Maronites and vicar general for the Patriarchate of Antioch, receiving episcopal ordination from the then Patriarch of the Maronites, Cardinal Paul Pierre Méouchi.
Nasrallah Sfeir was elected the 76th Maronite Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch on April 19, 1986 in the midst of Lebanon’s civil war. He was confirmed the following May 7, simultaneously taking the positions of President of the Synod of the Maronite Church and President of the Lebanese Episcopal Conference. In 2006, he was also named President of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East. Pope Saint John Paul II made him a cardinal during the Consistory of November 26, 1994. He resigned as Patriarch of the Maronite Church and from all other positions of pastoral government on February 26, 2011.
Lebanese Government declares two days mourning
Later Sunday, Lebanese politicians and Muslim and Christian religious figures visited the headquarters of the Maronite church in the village of Bkerke, north of Beirut, to pay condolences. The Lebanese Government declared two days of mourning starting Wednesday, during which flags will be flown at half-staff. He served as spiritual leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian community during some of the worst days of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.
With the death of Cardinal Sfeir, the College of Cardinals is made up of 221 cardinals, of whom 120 are electors and 101 are non-electors.
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