News and rumors about the health condition of Patriarch Emeritus Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir have been circulating the internet in the past days, causing confusion on the social media, and raising more concerns locally and worldwide.
For the past 10 days, since admitted to Hotel Dieu Hospital for a chest infection, Patriarch Emeritus Sfeir has been in an unstable condition, his health swaying precariously between regulated and critical.
This uncertain situation of his predecessor has prompted Patriarch Beshara El-Rai to cancel his trip to Africa to remain close to him.
However, Bkirki, the headquarter and official seat of the Maronite Patriarchate, issued an announcement yesterday, Thursday, via its spokesman Walid Ghayad, stating that Sfeir is in stable condition.
"Patriarch Beshara Rai received assurances from Sfeir’s doctor that his situation today is stable and that his response to treatment today was better than yesterday," Ghayad told reporters in a televised interview.
Conflicting news and developing interpretations brought about rumors that Sfeir has passed away. These rumors circulated recently throughout the internet, causing former MP Fares Souaid to hasten to tweet it himself then delete it to rush a new tweet with his apologies, "I'm sorry. Praying for his recovery."
اعتذر— Fares Souaid (@FaresSouaid) May 8, 2019
After visiting Sfeir in the hospital, Patriarch Beshara Rai commented on the rumors, telling the reporters that he regrets that some would hasten to spread such news. He called for the people to pray for the recovery of the 98-year-old religious leader.
Born in 1920, Sfeir became the head of the Maronite Church in Lebanon and the Levant Region in 1986, serving until 2011 as the 76th "Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole Levant" in communion with the Vatican. Since his resignation in 2011, he carries the honorable title of Patriarch Emeritus of the Maronite Church.
Patriarch Sfeir was a highly influential national personality during his 25 years of service as the spiritual leader to Lebanon's largest Christian body, counting over 1 million, and the Maronites in the world that are estimated at 3 million.
As per the "Maronite Heritage" site, there are 1120 Maronite parishes around the world, its largest world congregation outside Lebanon being in Buenos Aires, Argentina (750,000), followed by Sao Paolo, Brazil (500,000).
With his health at stake, the Maronite churches in the world and the Lebanese Christians in general across the country have been in constant prayers. Moreover, many Lebanese officials of all religions have been expressing their concern along with their wishes of a good recovery.
Those who couldn't manage to visit him, due to hospital restrictions, have called The Maronite Seat in Bkirki. Lebanese officials have been also posting their prayers and good wishes on social media.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea was among the many politicians who visited Sfeir in Hotel Dieu, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani and former minister Boutros Harb.
According to a tweet from Lebanon's Grand Serail account, Prime Minister Saad Hariri contacted Patriarch El-Rai to inquire about Sfeir's health condition, and express his concerns.
اجرى رئيس مجلس الوزراء سعد الحريري @saadhariri اتصالاً هاتفياً عصراً بالبطريرك الماروني مار بشارة بطرس الراعي مستفسراً ومطمئناً الى صحة البطريرك مار نصر الله بطرس صفير— رئاسة مجلس الوزراء 🇱🇧 (@grandserail) May 8, 2019
Unfortunately, there is still no improvement as we have learned today, Friday 10th, from the seat of the Maronite Church in Bkirki in its statement to the media:
"Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called Sfeir’s doctor yesterday evening and this morning, and it turned out that there hasn’t been any improvement in his health condition,” the statement said. "We ask everyone to pray for him during this difficult time."
Patriarch Emeritus Sfeir will turn 99 years next week. The961 joins in wishing him a quick full recovery.