Dubai (Gulf News) - Lebanese Patriarch Bashara Al Ra’i, will become the first Maronite to be a voter for and be a candidate for the new Pope. Maronites are the largest Christian community in Lebanon with a total of 6 million followers worldwide. Maronites follow the Vatican, however, primarily follow the teaching of a 4th century Syriac monk Maroun, who they venerate as a saint. The Vatican has appointed four Maronite cardinals over the course of history. Al Ra’i was elected cardinal less than six months ago, in November 2012, following the resignation of his predecessor Patriarch Sfeir.
While chances are slim that he is chosen, many Arab Christians will be pegging their hopes to have a Pope who understands their plight living in the Middle East in these current times, where many Christians feel discriminated and targeted by extremist Islamist groups that have emerged in countries with gaping security gaps, such as Iraq, Syria and Egypt.