[Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Lahاam speaks during a conference in Aley, Monday, June 17, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)]
11 September 2013
BEIRUT: Recent comments by top Syrian dissident Michel Kilo criticizing the stances of a Greek Catholic Patriarch over the Syria crisis have provoked reactions by church and political figures.
The Greek Orthodox council in Lebanon issued a statement Wednesday slamming Kilo’s criticisms of Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Lahham of Antioch, saying that that the stances of the patriarch who calls for dialogue in Syria come from his care for the lives of civilians.
“The Higher Council of the Greek Orthodox denounces the misleading stances over the Patriarch which lacks a sense of national responsibility,” the statement said.
Kilo, a journalist and prominent opposition figure, reportedly said that Lahham’s denunciation of military intervention in Syria indicate that he is “an intelligence man in the clothes of a Patriarch.”
“He is not a patriarch and has nothing to do with Christianity,” Kilo said.
Kilo’s comments came in response to a message from Lahham to U.S. President Barack Obama in which the patriarch described a possible military intervention by the U.S. in Syria as a “criminal act.”
The council’s statement said that Lahham made a call for peace that stems from his “spiritual and national responsibilities… and aim at preserving the rights of civilians and the Christian presence in the Middle East.”
Lebanon’s caretaker Labor Minister Salim Jreissati slammed the “reckless and vindictive talks of the Syrian dissident Michel Kilo.”
Lahham, the spiritual leader of the Melkite Church and the largest Catholic community in Syria, said that the planned western attack on Syria will destroy the Arab world’s trust in the West and will increase the danger of Islamist extremists in the war-torn country.
On previous occasions Lahham has rejected accusations of being close to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
He said that his stances are part of bishops’ responsibility for the Christian communities in a country ravaged by civil war.