CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Cardinal may renege on Saudi invitation

BEIRUT (AsiaNews): In what is being hailed as a first and breakthrough in religious relations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the king, Salaman, and prince with right of succession and currently number two in the political pecking order, Mohammad bin Salman, have issued an invitation to the Maronite patriarch of Lebanon, Bechara Cardinal al-Raï, to pay a state visit to Riyadh.
 
It will be the first time a Church leader from Lebanon has visited the ultraconservative and fundamentalist Muslim nation, where the religious and political scene is dominated by Wahhabi Islam, which is widely believed to be financing its religious expansion around the world.
 
Cardinal al-Raï confirmed the invitation came from the top and that no special conditions are being placed on his one-day visit. “My role is not political and everyone knows who the Maronite patriarch is,” Cardinal al-Raï explained.
 
He said that he was invited by the former king, Abdallah, in 2013, but was never able to go.
 
Recently, Riyadh has initiated a series of reforms under a policy called Vision 2030 to promote investment in the social, economic, cultural and religious spheres.
 
Cardinal al-Raï will be the first Christian religious leader to visit Saudi since the time of the prophet, Mohammad.
 
However, Cardinal al-Raï was amazed and puzzled at the political purge the king is carrying out when the Saudi-backed prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, resigned out of the blue. He delayed his trip, but arrived in Riyhad on November 13.
 
“If this is what happened, how can we go to Saudi Arabia? To give our blessing to pressure on the prime minister?” the cardinal said.
 
He added that at the political level what worries him most is the boomerang effect that will benefit only the adversaries, the Hezbollah, he is trying to fight against.

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