Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros held a series of meetings upon his arrival in Paris and is due to hold talks and lunch with President Nicholas Sarkozy on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Sfeir awarded a papal honor to former Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares.
Sfeir handed Fares the order of Saint Gregory the Great on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI and said the award was to pay tribute to the politician’s humanitarian contributions.
A reception was held for the occasion at the Fares family home in Paris in the presence of Lebanon’s Ambassador Butros Assaker and an array of religious and social figures.
The Patriarch gave a speech in which he praised the achievements of Fares and said the latter worked for justice, peace, human rights, dialogue between civilizations, encouraging reconciliation inside and outside Lebanon, decreasing social tension and empowering the youth on the scientific and cultural levels.
“The award shows the deep appreciation the pope has for Fares and for the humanitarian initiatives he launched inside and outside Lebanon,” he added, noting that Fares has become a reference for compassion and giving.
For his part, Fares thanked the Patriarch and the pope for the honor, saying: “All the mentioned achievements would not have happened without my faith in the Christian message: love each other.”
When asked about his return to Lebanon, the former lawmaker said it was very near, adding he might travel to the country this summer. He voiced hope the Lebanese would agree on keeping Lebanon free and independent even if they disagreed on other issues.