During his pastoral visit to Australia, on October 30th, 2014, His Beatitude Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros El Rai accepted the invitation of the World Patriarchal Maronite Foundation for Integral Development, addressed by its president Dr. Salim Sfeir to a ceremony organized in His honor in Sydney.
Were present at the event, the Pastor of the Diocese Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, the Patriarchal Vicar General Boulos Sayah, the superiors general of the Lebanese Maronite Order, the Lebanese Consul Georges Bitar Ghanem as well as monks, nuns and a crowd of the community figures and businessmen.
The meeting started with the two Lebanese and Australian national anthems and Bishop Tarabay delivered a speech during which he welcomed Patriarch El Rai and the audience and talked about the new Foundation and the possibility to open a branch thereof in Australia pointing out that the establishment of this Foundation is for the purpose of preserving the Christian presence in Lebanon and the East.
Dr. Sfeir delivered a speech in which he declared the launching of “The Foundation” which main objective is to “work to consolidate the Lebanese Youth presence on their land through creating job opportunities for them.
He said: “The World Patriarchal Maronite Foundation for Integral Development is presided by His Eminence Patriarch El Rai, its head office and administration are located in Bkerki” considering “that our concern is to service the vital ambiance of the Christian presence in Lebanon through the Integral Development for the human and its community at the same time.”
He added: “We benefited from the presence of His Excellency as well as the presence of Bishop Tarabay, the bishops and superiors general, in particular that Australia is considered as a pride landmark for the Lebanese immigration. In fact, we are proud of you as a pure and true image of Lebanon and the Lebanese.” And I hope “that His Excellency Bishop Tarabay will proceed to establish a branch for the Foundation here in Australia.”
Dr. Sfeir thanked Patriarch El Rai for “honoring us by accepting the presidency of the Foundation”.
He concluded by saying: “Our homeland is in need for the Development and the Human being, let us give back to Lebanon some of its donations.”
At the end of the meeting Patriarch El Rai addressed a word of thanks in which he evoked the verse of the miraculous catch of fish from the Holy Gospel, putting the World Patriarchal Maronite Foundation for Integral Development’s works under the protection of Our Lady of Lebanon and hoping it will attain the objectives of its establishment.
Moreover, His Beatitude said a word of thanks to the Pastor of the Diocese Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay for choosing the pastoral visit’s occasion to launch the Foundation in Australia and to the superior general of the Congregation of the Maronite Lebanese Missionaries for his approval to the nomination of the Missionary Father Elie Madi as CEO of the Foundation. He clarified that three points were at the source of the Foundation’s establishment: the economic crisis and its consequences in Lebanon, the political crisis and its results in Lebanon as well as the war in Syria.
His Beatitude regretted the situation in Lebanon which led to the emigration of most of our youth, the disintegration of our families and the most prominent reason is the economic crisis that has weighed upon the Lebanese citizen which made all the social and humanitarian establishments unable to cover the needs of the Lebanese citizens among whom one third became under the poverty line. Facing such facts, the Church and no one can remain silent or tolerate what is happening and everyone should move from his location and according to his potentials.
Behind this suffocating economic crisis stands an extremely serious political crisis we may describe as we have reached the abyss, where deals of political funds exacerbated and transformed from the financing of militias during the war to the compensating price for political positions nowadays. Today, we are in bad need to liberate our people from penury in order to prevent them from selling their homeland, themselves and their dignity to anyone.
Cardinal El Rai went on saying: Today we are living the consequences of the political crisis and all this is happening amidst indifference and an overwhelming suspicious silence. The country is being destroyed, the Lebanese people go deep in poverty and the presidential palace is locked. We cannot continue in such a manner and remain silent about what is happening. Lebanon was not offered to us as a gift instead our history was built on our ancestors and fathers’ sacrifices, hard work and on their love to their country. Therefore, today we cannot sell it or watch it being destroyed.
His Beatitude concluded saying: today more than ever the Middle East is in need for Christians to hold the Gospel of love, peace and brotherhood.