Could Patriarch Raï Become The Next Pope?

The conclave of Cardinals in charge of electing the new pope to replace Benedict XVI is currently underway at the Sistine chapel in the Vatican. You’re out of luck if you are a Roman tourist at this time of year – you can blame Benedict’s old age for that.

As it is with papal elections, there is no clear frontrunner as of this point. The myth goes that the cardinals leave their choice to the holy spirit through copious amounts of prayers and holiness. That is if you believe the holy spirit is a combination of politics, geographic, demographics and whatnot.

Eventually, any Pope nowadays is chosen based on one premise only: strengthening the position of the Catholic Church around the world. The late pope John Paul II led one of the biggest developments the Catholic Church had seen when it comes to the Youth, especially in popularity. Benedict’s undeclared job was to contain this surge that John Paul caused in a more Christian, usable, framework.

Today, the Catholic church is stuck at the edge of a steep cliff with the following predicaments:

  1. Decreasing worshippers across the world,
  2. Rise in Christian persecution in certain parts of the world,
  3. Sex-related scandals that plague Catholic priests more often than none,
  4. Corruption scandals that always seem to find a foothold,
  5. The issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and other thorny issues.

Seeing as the Catholic church is firm in its position regarding abortion, same-sex marriages (despite some recent breakthroughs in that regard), stem cell research and the like, I believe point #5 is not even an option in the voters’ mindset. Corruption and sex-related scandals are issues that Cardinals feel should be best kept in-house, not influencing the decision of choosing a Pope who will lead a Church not only based on those two criteria. The stances of the Catholic church regarding the many sex abuse cases that were revealed is a testament to that – if anything, it reminds me of typical elderly Lebanese women whose job in life is to cover up any wrongdoing in their family and showcase it to the world in positive light. Cardinals are similar to those elderly women in that regard.

The most important framework for Cardinals voting today is the following: help Christians around the world stay Christians and lessen the numbers of Christians who are deciding not to be so anymore. There’s little that a Pope can do when it comes to decreasing worshippers – after all, how do you convince people who lack faith that they should have it? It’s impossible. But what the papal conclave of Cardinals can affect is the persecution of Christian minorities across the world, notably in the Middle East.

Pope Benedict’s XVI’s visit to Lebanon back in September – his last major visit to any country before his resignation – was not out of the blue. Him demanding Patriarch Raï to go to Syria and hold mass there, which sparked an insane reaction, was also not out of the blue. Small steps they may be, sure, but for the faithful who still cling to their belief despite the hardships, a patriarch or a Pope acknowledging their strife is some very important business.

The question, therefore, asks itself: Could Patriarch Raï be the dark horse to be elected as the upcoming Pope?

Many Lebanese have already set Facebook pages to that effect, out of enthusiasm mostly, as if a liking a Facebook page to demand our patriarch be instated as Pope is actually beneficial or worth it. But that’s how things are with us – we always take things to Facebook.

However, I have thought about it lately and come to conclude that Mr. Raï could have a decent, albeit slight chance, at becoming the world’s next Pope for the following reasons:

  1. If the main focus is to target the persecution of Christians in the world, what better option than the head of the Christian majority in the location where Christians are targeted the most? The Middle East.
  2. Former pope Benedict’s XVI’s visit to Lebanon was, in part, to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (text) in which the Vatican goes on and on about the crucial importance of the Church in the Middle East.
  3. A Pope from the Middle East would set the wheels for true Muslim-Christian dialogue, which is what this deeply religious and troubled region needs and the Vatican knows this.
  4. Patriarch Raï is age appropriate to be pope. He is only 73. He also speaks several languages fluently, as is required of Lebanese bishops.
  5. Patriarch Raï does not come from a country where priest sex scandals are aplenty and being relatively unknown to the vote has a rather “cleaner” slate than his counterparts. He was also elected as an assistant to the interim Pope over the past week.

The reasons may not be supremely compelling to have someone become Pope, sure. But they’re still viable enough to put Mr. Raï on the papal map. I’m not even sure if Mr. Raï can be a good pope but he might become one.  And frankly, him getting elected sort of scares me.

Look At All Those “Idiots” Attending The Pope’s Mass in Beirut

350,000. That’s how many people went to Beirut’s Watefront to attend the Pope’s Mass.

A few people is all it took for a wave of ridicule to start hitting them all. Some people were bothered by the Mass. And I don’t get why.

I didn’t go down to Beirut for the Mass although I would have liked to. And I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to. But why make fun of those who do?

Are they causing you any harm? No. Are they wrecking havoc to downtown Beirut? No. Are they giving a bad image of your country? No.

On the contrary, the Pope’s Mass in Beirut was broadcast for the entire world to see. And if there’s any decent image that we could have given the world, it’s this: 350,000 people, not all of whom are Christian, listening in to a message of hope.

You don’t like the Pope? Fine. You don’t think what he has to say is relevant? You have every right. But what you don’t have the right to do is make fun of those who like the Pope and who think what he has to say is relevant.

Religion may not mean anything to you but it means something to others. You find religions to be bringing societies backwards, others find in them a message of hope. And as it is your right to express your belief without expecting people to pummel you for it, the least you can do is extend that courtesy to those who don’t share your beliefs.

Personally, I felt proud as a Lebanese first and foremost and as a Christian second to see the crowds in Downtown Beirut chant and attend Mass. It made me feel hopeful, if only for a fleeting second, that somehow someday things might get better. I may be delusional, but that’s fine – at least for today.

The point is: the Pope’s visit means a lot to so many people. It may mean nothing to you but that doesn’t mean you can disparage the right of people to see hope in it or to attend Mass and feel delusional for one more day. It’s their life and if you believe they’re not reaching their “mental apogee” because of it, then it’s their loss not yours.

Pictures From the Burning Down of KFC in Tripoli, Lebanon

Those damn chicks! I knew they had something to do with that anti-Islam movie. But it seems the burning down of KFC in Tripoli wasn’t only aimed at the anti-Islam movie (even writing this sentence sounds funny) but also against the Pope’s visit to Lebanon. Some protesters were apparently overheard saying: “We don’t want the Pope” after some billboards welcoming the Pope had been torn off across the city.

Because, you know, f*ck logic. Of course, certain people from certain political affiliations will whore this around as “clear” evidence about Tripoli being full of Islamists and extremists who want nothing but to terrorize Christians in the country and as such you should vote for those in the opposite side of the country because we can’t but drip in hypocrisy.

But I digress. Here are some pictures taken by the Huffington Post. Such an honor to have made an international splash this way.

 

 

Meanwhile, 60km away but seemingly in a different country:

 

But No One Asked If We Wanted To Pay To Get the Pope to Lebanon!

The following picture was shared yesterday by the Lebanese Laïque Pride Facebook page, as their way to refute the Pope’s visit.

It seems the Lebanese Laïque (Secular) Pride people are missing a key point to their notion of secularism. Being secular doesn’t mean not being religious. Being secular doesn’t mean you go nazi on any religious event in the country and being secular surely doesn’t mean being this narrow-minded.

I can give the Lebanese Laïque Pride many examples of bonafide laïque countries, the kind that these Laïque people would kill to have over here, that have hosted the Pope and even organized WYD (World Youth Day) before. But I won’t. What I will do however is list them a few things that I, as a Lebanese, wasn’t also asked if I wanted to pay for:

  1. The few billion dollars we had to pay post July 2006.
  2. The few billion dollars we had to pay post May 2008.
  3. The millions in losses that we had to incur over people closing roads and terrorizing citizens.
  4. The 40% increase to the salaries of MPs who do nothing and ministers who complain about not having electricity.
  5. The visit of Ahmedinejad to Lebanon back in 2010.

And the list goes on and on. Some of them will throw the “but Jesus wanted you to be poor” argument. They seem to forget apparently that paving roads, hiring organizers, hanging banners and taking care of logistics are matters that are not taken care of by the Holy Spirit and in fact need Earthly monetary input.

What has become clear also is that no other religious figure can have his visit this opposed. I invite you to check this Facebook status (click here). But we’ll take it. Like we’ve taken so many other things before. Because that’s what we do.

One thing has become evident though, there’s no way in hell I’m trusting those Lebanese Laïque Pride people in any of their events ever again. Because, you know, f*ck their logic.

The Pope Is In Lebanon. You’re Upset? Bite Me.

Pope Benedict XVI is coming in a few hours to Lebanon in a visit that has been hyped up for months and which wasn’t even certain at a certain point as the situation in Syria escalated. And yet the Pope still decided to come here, as he should, in order to check up on his congregation or at least the part of it that cared.

Of course, the BDS can’t really complain and start campaigning against the Pope’s visit just because he visited Israel a few years back so at least we’re safe on that front. But in typical Lebanese fashion, you have people complaining. Complaining about what? About the Pope coming here in his expensive papamobile, wearing his expensive garments, holding his expensive Golden cross and preaching from expensive-looking churches.

Money, money, money… and none of it is for the poor. How Christian is the head of Christianity? Let’s go protest!

People seem to be forgetting that the need for an expensive papamobile only arose when assassination attempts targeted previous popes. But, you know, the pope doesn’t have the right for self security like everyone else. In Lebanon, the politicians that the people complaining about the papamobile follow have these massive 20 car convoys just to ensure their safety. When they give their speeches, they do so behind bulletproof glass. Why don’t we complain about them spending money? Yeah, because it’s much easier to target a pope who’s not allowed, supposedly, to spend money.

And the list goes on and on. What people seem to fail to realize is that the Catholic Church specifically has so many charities spread all around the world to help. And help they do. What people seem to fail to realize is that the Catholic Church gives money away but it doesn’t advertize it like the charities these people are madly in love with. Why? Because that’s not something the Catholic Church boasts about.

What these people fail to realize is that even in Lebanon, the role of the Catholic Church is more far reaching than they can think of. Do you know how many children have gotten discounts in Catholic schools just because their parents were passing through economic difficulties? But it’s very easy to criticize. “These catholic schools charge so much” is one of the things you keep on hearing. Yeah, because the teachers and employees working at those schools are doing so out of charity, right?

If any of the people complaining had been teachers at those schools, they would have forever held their peace. But it’s always easier to preach.

Did you also know that the Pope’s Cross isn’t made out of gold? It used to be. But now it only has a golden crust. Why? To symbolize the ongoing current in the Vatican to lessen the materialistic aspect of the Catholic Church while still keeping a grandeur to the position held by the pope. And if you have a problem with that grandeur then your insecurity is not really the problem of the Church. If you also have a problem with the grandeur of the Churches in Rome, then I advise psychological help.

When it comes to the people criticizing, I have to ask: before you preach about donating, how about you donate? What are YOU doing to the children of Africa lately? Is your brand new phone or laptop or car helping the children of Somalia eat?

When it comes to the people criticizing, I have to ask: why is it so easy for you to use the presence of Christians in the East in your political debates to either support or refute certain revolutions and then frown upon the visit of the head of the Church who’s coming here first and foremost to let these worried Christians know that they are not forgotten?

As far as I’m concerned, the Pope visiting Lebanon is such a welcome change from all the political uselessness we’re being bombarded with lately. At least now you’ll know that all the roads which will be taken by the Pope will be newly paved and for these three days Lebanon will be the most secure country on the planet and the Christians will lessen their nagging and the Lebanon he’ll see is the utopia of coexistence we dream about. And that is the miracle of Pope Benedict.

The Pope Might Cancel Lebanon Trip… For Security Reasons.

The September 14-16 visit of pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon is no longer set in stone and might be canceled at any moment, as reported by Naharnet. (Source).

The reason for that? The troubling situation in Syria and whatever effect it might have on the security of Lebanon.

The last Papal visit to Lebanon was in 1997 by John Paul II. Back then, the Syrian army roamed free in most of Lebanon and the Israeli army occupied the South. However, that didn’t deter the late Pope from coming in to see his people, who had been waiting for such a visit in persecution for a long, long time.

If Pope Benedict XVI ends up canceling his trip, I’ll be disappointed because of what such a cancellation represents: the fear of a Pope for his own life, when in reality there’s no threat, more so than the lives of the people he’s supposed to be visiting.

What a Pope’s supposed to do isn’t hide away behind security pretentiousness and actually visit the congregation that doesn’t have that prerogative and who has been through ordeals upon ordeals, partly because of the faith of which he’s the current “reference.”

The sad part is the pope actually visited Israel, Palestine and Jordan back in 2009. I guess there are no security concerns in Occupied Palestine. None at all.

A Vatican high-horse is better than Lebanese hole, apparently. Truly inspiring from the Pope. I feel more Christian already.

Benetton’s New Ad Campaign “Unhate” – Ridiculous or Ingenious?

Upon checking my Facebook home feed yesterday, I was struck by pictures of men kissing. No, I’m not homophobic but yes, I was taken aback by them.

Upon closer inspection, I saw that those pictures are of world leaders kissing. The caption on the bottom right was Benetton’s logo. And then I understood: this is a marketing ploy aimed at something. But what is that “something”?

It seems Benetton is supporting the “Unhate” foundation, which according to their page, “seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance.”

While I am fully supportive of the cause, our world definitely needs more tolerance, is it really Benetton’s place to put up these ads, start the foundation and work for it?

First, I find the ads borderline offensive and somewhat ridiculous. First, the concept of “unhate” does not involve world leaders kissing each other on the lips. I see the controversy in the idea but an ad campaign revolving around activism should at least have a firm ground from which those exposed can start from. I cannot even imagine Obama hugging Chavez. Then how about them kissing?

Second, Benetton is a clothing company that does fashion. The days when my parents used to drag me there to get clothes are long over but I still remember their clothes having good quality. I mean, the raincoat my parents got me when I was five got passed down to my brothers and still exists somewhere as a memorabilia. But no matter. When a company does “fashion,” is it also in its spectrum of business to go the activism route? I hardly think so. I am not the most knowing when it comes to fashion (nor advertising) but, in my head, it makes more sense for an ad by a fashion company to make a fashion statement than for it to call for activism. The ads Benetton unleashed do not serve the former but serve the latter. However, do they even serve the latter properly?

This leads us to:

Third, no they do not because the ads are borderline irrelevant. The only traction these ads will get is via the condemning of the Vatican and the people who are shocked by these ads. Will the message be assimilated by those expose? Will they start “unhating” and “kiss” their enemies? I hardly think so. At most, those who love the ads will rave about how ingenious they are for a few days. Those offended will throw a fit and then forget about it sooner or later, simply because our attention span is really shorter than that of a fish. For a marketing campaign to remain relevant, it needs to have continuity and longevity. I do not see the Benetton campaign having either of those.

Maybe a kiss on the cheek would have been, ironically, less traitorous than a kiss on the mouth. I don’t understand how the concept of “unhate” can happen when you’re ridiculing the beliefs of two of the world’s biggest belief systems by having the Pope kiss the Sheikh of Al-Azhar. Or it could possibly be old-fashioned yours truly who believes that tolerance starts with respecting the different other. I don’t see much respect into getting a photoshopped Obama french-kissing a photoshopped Hu Jintao. But what’s worse is that many people won’t know these pictures are indeed photoshopped and will assume that the Pope in fact kissed Sheikh Al Azhar or that Angela Merkel is now having an affair with Nicolas Sarkozi. People will assume the pictures are “real” and once the ball gets rolling with “reality” there’s no stopping it.

These are the controversial ad pictures:

North Korean and South Korean presidents

Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao

Obama and Chavez

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy

The Pope and Sheikh Al Azhar

 

And to make things even more absurd, the ads are not even original: