Lebanon and the world woke up this Sunday morning to extremely sad news. Maronite Patriarch Emeritus Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir passed away at the age of 98, after suffering from a chest infection.
His death was announced in a statement by the Seat of the Maronite Church, mourning the departure of its previous spiritual leader. "The Maronite Church is orphaned and Lebanon is in sadness," the Church said.
In the announcement, Cardinal Bechara El-Rai, who succeeded Cardinal Sfeir in 2011, called on its churches to ring their bells at 10:00 o'clock and to hold prayers for the departed leader during all the Sunday masses.
The passing of Patriarch Sfeir took over the news headlines and social media platforms from around the world. In no time, Sfeir received countless tributes from Lebanese and world leaders and other notable figures, as well as citizens from all parts of the world expressing their condolences.
Lebanese politicians from all religions as well as Muslim and Christian religious figures rushed to the headquarters of the Maronite Seat in the town of Bkerki, North of Beirut, to pay their condolences.
Sfeir's body will be led to rest in the Patriarchal Church in Bkerki on Wednesday, May 15th until Thursday, May 16th.
Prayer will be celebrated on Thursday afternoon at 5:00 PM and the body of Patriarch Sfeir will be buried in the tombs of the Patriarchs in Bkerki.
Condolences will be held on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm in Bkerki.
In this regard, the prime minister’s office issued on Sunday a memo declaring May 15-16 as national days of mourning for the former Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir.
The memorandum said that the Lebanese flags would be lowered on Wednesday and Thursday to half-mast at public administrations, institutions, and municipalities and that all programs at radio stations and TVs will be adjusted to befit the sad occasion.
Moreover, on May 16, the day when the Patriarch's funeral will be held, work will stop in mourning at all public administrations, municipalities, and public and private institutions.
Patriarch Emeritus Sfeir, who was about to turn 99 on May 15th, was admitted 10 days ago to Hotel Dieu Hospital after a chest infection that brought his health to an unstable condition.
Ever since then, he has been in an unstable health condition causing confusion and raising concerns in Lebanon and the world.
The961 mourns the national leader whose influence of peace and reconciliation impacted the nation countless of times through his decades of service. Lebanon has lost a very important personality, and we join in expressing our deepest condolences to Lebanon in general, and to the Maronite Church worldwide in particular. His memory shall remain recorded in our collective mind and in the history of Lebanon. May his soul rest in peace.