BEIRUT (CNS) — Lebanon’s Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops called for the international community to work toward achieving peace in Syria and Iraq and for putting an end to terrorist organizations.

During their annual meeting Nov. 10-15 at Bkerke, the patriarchal seat of the Maronite Catholic Church, north of Beirut, the prelates addressed pastoral, national and regional issues. Also high on the agenda was the role of the family and society, as a follow-up to the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 5-19 at the Vatican.

In its final statement, addressing the presidential vacuum that has plagued Lebanon for six months, the council said lawmakers “must assume their responsibilities and elect a president.”

Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended, because legislators have failed to agree on a successor. Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the parliament a Shiite Muslim.

The council urged presidential candidates “to abandon their personal interests in favor of national ones.”

The patriarchs and bishops also called for the approval of a fair parliamentary electoral law “that would ensure just representation and guarantee the rights of all sects in accordance with the principles of coexistence in Lebanon.”

Tribal fighters take part in a military training near Baghdad Nov. 16 to prepare for fighting against Islamic State militants. Lebanon's Catholic leaders have called for peace in Syria and Iraq. (CNS photo/Reuters)
Tribal fighters take part in a military training near Baghdad Nov. 16 to prepare for fighting against Islamic State militants. Lebanon’s Catholic leaders have called for peace in Syria and Iraq. (CNS photo/Reuters)

They denounced the “abuse” of Lebanon’s lawmakers. Amid the presidential stalemate, parliament voted earlier in November to extend its term until June 2017.

“Lebanon can no longer persist in this state of fragmentation caused by the schemes of powerful politicians,” the prelates said.

The political fragmentation comes amid increasing instability in Lebanon, with sporadic clashes in the north between Islamic State-inspired militants and the army.

The patriarchs and bishops called on officials “to rise above their disputes and support the army and all other security agencies in Lebanon.”

In his opening statement at the council’s meeting, Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, said “the family is under threat in Lebanon” because of hardships related to economic, political and security issues in the country.

In its final statement, the council commended Christian families that “maintain the sanctity of marriage.” It urged Christians to pursue the proper preparation for marriage and to uphold Christian values, rather than secular lifestyles promoted by the entertainment industry.

The council includes representatives of the Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Syrian, Chaldean and Latin Catholic churches. The Vatican nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, attended the meeting, and the prelates also received Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schonborn and a group of Catholic legislators from different countries.

–By Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service.

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