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    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    Lebanon Catholics


    The Christian exodus from Lebanon has accelerated in recent decades. In the last official national census, Christians-- mostly Maronite-- composed 63% of Lebanon's population. Today the best estimates fix the Christian population at 32%.

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    The Maronite Catholic bishops have issued an urgent appeal for international help in rebuilding Lebanon, saying that grave uncertainties about the future are sparking an exodus of Christians from that country.

    In a plea made public by the AsiaNews service, the Maronite bishops asked for help in re-opening schools for the new academic year, and delivering medicines and other critical supplies to Lebanon before winter begins.

    In an interview with AsiaNews, Msgr. Guy-Paul Noujaim, Maronite patriarchal vicar for the diocese of Sarba, expressed his concerns. “These days a great number of Christians are joining the exodus," he said. "They feel abandoned.” Archbishop Paul Matar of Beirut agreed, telling AsiaNews that his people "want to leave the country not out of fear, but out of uncertainty for its future."

    Archbishop Georges Bakouni, who heads the Melkite Catholic community in Tyre, has urged his people to stay in Lebanon, and asked those who fled the fighting to "come home and show that Lebanon will not die."

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