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Pope Francis: telegram of condolence for card. Sfeir’s death

“A free, brave man” who “will stay on as a great figure in the history of Lebanon”: this is how Pope Francis defines card. Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch Emeritus of Antioch, in a telegram of condolence sent to card. Béchara Boutros Raï, Maronite patriarch of Antioch, for the cardinal’s demise that happened last Sunday. “Having sadly learnt of the death, aged 99, of His Beatitude card. Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch Emeritus of Antioch, my heartfelt condolences go to his family, to all the devotees of the Maronite Patriarchal Church of Antioch that he has so sweetly and determinedly led for many years”, the telegram reads. “A free, brave man” – the Pope goes on – “card. Sfeir practiced his mission in a troubled scenario and has been the decisive crafter of union, peace and reconciliation. A fervent supporter of the sovereignty and independence of his country, he will stay on as a great figure in the history of Lebanon”. “I beg the merciful Father to welcome into His dwelling of peace and light this wise, committed shepherd who succeeded in showing God’s love to the people he had been entrusted with”, Francis ends.
Card. Sfeir was born in Rayfoun, in the Maronite diocese of Sarba, Lebanon, on 15th May 1920. He completed his primary and complementary studies in the school of Mar-Abda Harharaya from 1933 and 1936. Then, he went to secondary school in the Seminary of Saint-Maron, Gahzir, Lebanon, from 1937 to 1939, then on to the Major Seminary of St Joseph University in Beirut from 1940 to 1943. He completed his philosophical and theological education at the Faculty of Theology of St Joseph University from 1944 to 1950. He was ordained priest on 7th May 1950. He was appointed parish priest of the parish of Rayfoun and secretary of the diocese of Damas, a post he held from 1950 to 1956. Appointed Secretary of the Maronite Patriarchate, he held such post from 1956 to 1961. He taught Arab Literature and Philosophy and Translation at the College of the Marist Fathers in Jounieh: 1951 to 1961. Moved to the Maronite Titular Church of Tarsus, he was appointed patriarchal vicar general on 19th June 1961, he was reappointed on 23rd June, and on 16th July he was ordained bishop. He was appointed advisor to the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law (1980). In 1977, he was appointed representative of the president of the Assembly of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon for Caritas-Lebanon, and in 1980 he was appointed spiritual advisor of the Order of Malta. He was appointed Maronite Patriarch of Antioch on 19th April 1986, then took over the Patriarchate on 27th April of that year, going on to become Patriarch emeritus on 26th February 2011. He was made cardinal by St John Paul II in the Consistory of 26th November 1994.

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