Sharp remarks by Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aude on Sunday sparked a wave of counter reactions among Lebanon’s political and religious figures.
Aude celebrated a mass in downtown Beirut, marking the 14th anniversary of the assassination of lawmaker Gebran Tueni and two of his bodyguards.
In his sermon, he said: “How long are we to continue paying the price for internal and external polarizations? How long are we to continue wasting opportunities? How long will the people remain captive to the policy of an extremist party?”
“This country is ruled by a person you all know and by a group that governs us with arms!” he exclaimed.
The Greek Orthodox Archbishop blamed the authorities for the current economic and political crisis.
“Today, unfortunately, Lebanon pays the price of the mistakes committed by a corrupt and bankrupt political class,” he said, adding “had it not been for the people who held on to their identity, Lebanon would have been lost a long time ago.”
Aude hailed the Lebanese being united under the country’s national flag, and their calls for social justice, anti-corruption, accountability, liberation of the judiciary from political interference, and the formation of a government of competent specialists.
“Are these fictitious demands, or the basic requirements to build a state?” he asked.
“Birth, my dear ones, is preceded by a painful labor, and the birth of a new Lebanon is approaching,” Aude said.
In response, Grand Jaafari Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan said: “This person and that group freed, resisted, protected, preserved and restored freedom, sovereignty, and independence for a country that was occupied.”
Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad said, for his part: “These words are expressed by those who try to ignore the real causes of the crisis, and try to give and justify targeting the resistance in Lebanon.”
“These words are not innocent. Those who say them are not innocent,” he affirmed.
But caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani tweeted in support of Aude, saying: “The positions of Archbishop Elias Aude stem from national responsibility and have always embodied the feeling of Lebanese people from all components.”