Delicate Situation Compels Hizbullah to Remain Mum on al-Rahi’s Visit to Holy Land

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Hizbullah will remain silent regarding Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi’s expected visit to the Holy Land to avert any war of words with Bkirki at the critical political stage that the country is passing through.

Al-Liwaa newspaper quoted Hizbullah sources as saying on Wednesday that the party “decided to remain mum at this stage and refused to comment negatively or positively” on the matter.

“The party is holding onto its confidential stance and will discuss the matter with Bkirki via the official channels and away from media spotlight,” the sources said.

Al-Rahi is expected to travel to Jerusalem to welcome Pope Francis during his brief visit to the occupied Palestinian territories on May 24-26.

The Patriarch’s visit is diplomatically noteworthy because Lebanon remains technically at war with Israel and bans its citizens from entering the Hebrew state.

Sources close to the committee tasked with following up on the dialogue between Bkirki and Hizbullah told the newspaper that the “silence policy” of the party is to express its conviction that any verbal spat with al-Rahi would be “useless.”

However, the sources expressed fear over the “negative impact that al-Rahi’s visit to Jerusalem would have on the relations between Bkirki and Hizbullah.”

“Hizbullah insists on dealing with the delicate matter calmly and reasonably,” sources told al-Liwaa, adding that the party’s stance will be based on the developments.

The expected visit was met with huge controversy in the country, with some considering it a “historical mistake that opens the door for normalization with Israel” and Church authorities repeatedly assuring that it has a strictly religious character.

Maronite clergy may to travel to the Holy Land to minister to the estimated 10,000 faithful there.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said last week that al-Rahi was not part of the official delegation heading to the Holy Land and was going on his own initiative.

Al-Rahi would be the first patriarch to travel to Israel since the Jewish state was created in 1948.

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