Lebanon bids farewell to influential Christian clergyman Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir


Lebanon on Thursday bade farewell to the former patriarch of the country's Maronite Christian Church, Nasrallah Boutrous Sfeir, who was an outspoken critic of the Syrian government and its military and political tutelage of Lebanon.

Sfeir died at a Beirut hospital after a brief illness on Sunday, aged 98. High-ranking Lebanese officials, diplomats and thousands of mourners from different religious sects in Lebanon attended a funeral held for Sfeir at the Maronite Church in Bkirki, north east of Beirut.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attended, representing President Emmanuel Macron. Schools, private and public companies closed in a gesture of mourning as Lebanese flags outside all government institutions were lowered at half mast.

In 1986, Sfeir became the patriarch of the Maronite Christian Church, a post he held until 2011.

In 1994 the then pope, John Paul II, made him a cardinal. Sfeir played a major role in helping end Lebanon's 15-year civil war that started in 1975.

Christians make up about 40 percent of Lebanon's population of more than 6 million, with Shia and Sunni Muslims and the Druze minority accounting for the rest.    (dpa)

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