Beirut (AsiaNews) - Maronite patriarch, Card. Bechara Raï has announced that he will visit Saudi Arabia within the next two weeks, responding to the official invitation from Saudi king Salman and the hereditary prince, and number two in the country, Mohammad bin Salman.

This is the first historic visit by a Lebanese church leader to the ultraconservative Wahhabi kingdom, which has recently launched a series of economic and social reforms, including the opening up of sports arenas and driving to women, as well as the first attempts at emancipation from the fundamentalist view of Islam.

In an interview with Lebanese State TV, Card. Raï confirmed the invitation from the highest Saudi authorities, pointing out that "no special conditions were set for the visit" which "will last one day". "My role - added the Cardinal - is not political and everyone knows who the Maronite patriarch is."

The Lebanese Christian leader remembers that in the past, in 2013, he had received an invitation to visit Riyadh from the former monarch, King Abdallah. However, this trip was never possible, he adds, "for a variety of [non-defined] issues."

In the last period, the Saudi kingdom has initiated a series of reforms, forcefully taken by the hereditary prince, in the context of the "Vision 2030" program that invests in the social, economic, cultural and religious sphere. Historians and analysts recall that Card. Raï’s will be "the first visit of a Christian religious leader since... the time of the Prophet's ". In the past the Cardinal had already made an official trip to Qatar.

An official source of the patriarchate reported that "the invitation was issued by word of mouth" in recent days to the Cardinal by the Saudi business agent in Lebanon Walid Boukhari. A historical visit, the sources emphasized, which once again raises the role of the Land of the Cedara as a "message of pluralism for the East and the West," as Pope John Paul II repeatedly referred to it.

The Maronite Patriarch and Lebanon propose their role as a “bridge" to an Arab world that opens to modernity in a regional context marked by wars - Iraq, Syria - and tensions (Iran and Saudi Arabia, Countries the Gulf and Qatar).

During the flying visit to Riyadh, Card. Raï should also raise the question of Jerusalem and peace in the Holy Land, a decade-old and unresolved problem that gives rise to all the other crises that characterize the region. (DS)


Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Theophany

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you." (Proverbs 3:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Adam, God's first-formed man, transgressed: could He [God] not at once have brought death upon him? But see what the Lord does, in His great love towards man. He casts him out from Paradise, for because of sin he was unworthy to live there; but He puts him to dwell over against Paradise: that seeing whence he had fallen, and from what and into what a state he was brought down, he might afterwards be saved by repentance.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture 2 no. 7)