The Maronite Patriarch Emeritus Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir passed away on Sunday, May 12, 2019. He was born on May 15, 1920.
He was the 76th Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East from 1986 to 2011 and then Patriarch Emeritus of the Maronite Church since February 26, 2011, the date of his resignation. The current Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï succeeded him in March of that same year.
Ordained a Maronite priest on May 7, 1950 by Cardinal Pierre-Paul Méouchi, first practicing in Rayfoun, Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir had climbed all the levels of the Maronite religious institution.
He was thus first appointed secretary of the Patriarch, then Maronite auxiliary bishop of Antioch on June 19, 1961 and finally, Maronite Patriarch, Patriarch of Antioch and of the whole East for the Maronite Church on April 19, 1986. of the resignation of Cardinal Antoine Khoraiche and was effectively consecrated on April 27, 1986. He will also be admitted as cardinal of the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
He will present his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI who accepts it on February 26, 2011.
A Maronite patriarch who was heavily involved in the political scene
The career of the Maronite Patriarch was marked by his political involvement as Lebanon went through the periods of civil war and the Syrian occupation. Thus, its proximity to the Lebanese Forces of Samir Geagea was strongly criticized by part of the Christian population and part of the Maronite church during the period from 1986 to 1990, the date of General Aoun’s defeat against Syrian allied troops. for the occasion to the Lebanese Forces. He notably called on the government opposed to General Michel Aoun, that of Salim Hoss, under Syrian influence, to overthrow him.
One of the causes of this divergence between General Michel Aoun and the Patriarch was that he was one of the supporters of the Taëf agreements which reduced the prerogatives of the Presidency of the Republic, however allocated to the Maronite community.
At the end of the Civil War, in the absence of the main Christian leaders who were either exiled like former President Amine Gemayel, General Michel Aoun or imprisoned like Samir Geagea, he will become the spokesperson for the opposition. Christian against the Syrian occupation.
In August 2001, the patriarch will make a historic tour in the Chouf, thus marking the official reconciliation with the Druze community and its leader Walid Joumblatt a few decades after the mountain war and the massacres which then followed.
This reconciliation was one of the precursors to the convergence of interests between the different communities that make up Lebanon in order to obtain the withdrawal of Syrian troops. This withdrawal will take place on April 26, 2005, following international and local pressure which took place after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri on February 14.
His political involvement will not end with the Syrian withdrawal. Thus, during the Lebanese presidential crisis of 2007-2008, he attempted a conciliation between the opposing parties. In 2009, a few hours before the holding of the then legislative elections, he will call on the Christian community to vote against the alliance between the Free Patriotic Current and Hezbollah and in favor of the so-called March 14 coalition of which the Lebanese Forces are part. of Samir Geagea to whom he is considered close. At the end of this ballot and the electoral victory of the Free Patriotic Current, which has become the first Christian party, relations between the Patriarch and the CPL will be very degraded.
Some believe that this support, which caused dissension within the Christian community and the Maronite Church, was one of the determining factors for his resignation as Patriarch in 2011.