November 26, 2012. (Romereports.com)
Hundreds of Lebanese Catholics packed St. Peter's Basilica as Benedict XVI created one of their very own as a cardinal.
His Eminence Béchara Boutros Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, was one of six prelates elevated to the seconds highest rank possible, within the Catholic Church.
“I think I'm one of the lucky ones who got the chance to see the ceremony. It's an honor to be here and it's something to be done once in a lifetime.”
More than 500 Lebanese, including President Michel Suleiman, witnessed the ceremony, where the Pope handed the Patriarch his ring and a round biretta, special only to the Maronite rite of the Catholic Church.
The decision by Benedict XVI to create another cardinal from Lebanon sends an important message, they say.
“It's a message of peace. It's a message of what Jesus our lord commanded, that we love each and everyone like our brothers.”
The message goes beyond borders, and across religions. It plays out every day across multiethnic and multi-religious Lebanon.
“I believe that Lebanon, as the Pope John Paul II said, it's more than a country, it's a message. It's a live example of how we live together. 18 different religions, we live together side by side.”
The Pope has taken special interest in the region. Rai's creation as cardinal comes two months after Benedict XVI visited the Land of Cedars.