Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch makes historic Saudi visit amid tensions

By Sara Shayanian  |  Nov. 14, 2017 at 8:32 AM
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Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Lebanon's head of the Maronite Catholic Church, Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi, made his historic first trip to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Tuesday.

Al-Rahi arrived in Riyadh late Monday at the invitation of the king. He described the visit as "the first of its kind" and said it's the first by a Maronite Patriarch to the Kingdom.

"We hope this visit will benefit Lebanon at all levels," he said. "The Kingdom has long supported Lebanon ... Relations between us are based on friendship and brotherhood."

Tuesday, Al-Rahi met with the Saudi king at Al-Yamamah Palace and discussed relations between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon -- two nations that have seen political tensions rise in recent days -- and the role of religion in promoting tolerance and renouncing extremism.

"The patriarch represents all the patriarchs and Christians of the East. He is carrying a message of love and openness to Saudi Arabia, which is now witnessing further openness and positive changes," Al-Rahi spokesman Walid Ghayyad added.

Al-Rahi was also scheduled to meet with former Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned last week while in Saudi Arabia. Hariri said Sunday he will return to Beirut soon.

The Maronite sect is Lebanon's largest Christian community.

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