President Michel Suleiman has told Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi that it was preferable for him not to visit the Holy Land later this month over local controversy on the planned trip, As Safir daily reported on Friday.


The newspaper said that Suleiman preferred during the talks held on Thursday at Baabda Palace that “such a visit not take place amid the division over it.” The president also “expressed readiness to provide the political cover to any stance made by the Maronite patriarchate to go back on the decision to hold the controversial visit,” it said. But al-Rahi reportedly defended his decision to accompany Pope Francis to Jerusalem and hinted that he would not change his mind. According to the report, he also said he did not mind for Lebanese pilgrims to visit the Holy Land in the future. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Thursday al-Rahi was not part of the official delegation heading to the Holy Land and was going on his own initiative.  [Link]