Former Maronite Patriarch Dies Aged 98

  • Local
Former Maronite Patriarch Dies Aged 98

Former Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, one of the most influential figures in the contemporary history of Lebanon and the Maronite Church, passed away early Sunday morning.

He would have turned 99 on May 15.

The Cardinal’s health had deteriorated days after he was admitted to the Hotel Dieu Hospital due to a chest infection and kidney failure.

The funeral will take place on Thursday at 17:00 at the Maronite Patriarchate's seat in Bkirki. 

Prime Minister Saad Hariri declared Wednesday and Thursday as national days of mourning, ordering flags to be flown at half mast and television programs adjusted for the occasion.

Work will stop at public institutions on Thursday, the premier's memo stated.

Secretary-General of Catholic Schools in Lebanon, Father Boutros Azar, also announced that educational institutions will close on Thursday.

Nasrallah Sfeir was the 76th Patriarch of Lebanon's Maronite Church. He was elected in April 1986 and submitted his resignation to the Vatican in February 2011. He was made cardinal by Pope John Paul II in November 1994; a title that only two Maronite patriarchs had been awarded before him.

The late patriarch was born in Rayfoun, Keserwan, in May 1920. He obtained a degree in philosophy and theology in 1950 at the Saint Joseph University in Beirut. He was ordained to the priesthood in the same year on May 7. From 1951 to 1955, he served as priest to the parish of Rayfoun. In 1956, hewas appointed as the secretary of the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkirki. In June 1961, Sfeir was appointed Titular bishop and Patriarchal vicar.

The late patriarch emeritus played a pivotal role during key stages of Lebanon’s history, being a staunch advocate of the country's sovereignty and independence.

Sfeir was an outspoken critic of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, having refused to visit Damascus as he considered that it implies consent to the Syrian tutelage.