February 17, 2005
Nasrallah Pierre Cardinal Sfeir
Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole East
Head of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I wish to express our deep sense of pain and shock at the heinous murder of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafiq Hariri. This crime which took his life and the lives of so many others is morally repugnant and an affront to all of the people of Lebanon.
It is my sincere hope that these tragic deaths will be an occasion for the Lebanese people to one again come together in rejecting violence and building greater solidarity. Lebanon is a country where Muslims and Christians share a common beginning, a shared responsibility for governance and a common destiny. Lebanon stands as a strong example of a society where a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community can live in peace in the Middle East.
As the people of Lebanon mourn, I assure you of our solidarity and prayers. We pray for the peace and well being of all of the people of Lebanon and share the hope expressed by Pope John Paul II upon the occasion of his visit to Lebanon on May 11, 1997 when he prayed, "Spirit of God, may your power unite all the children of this land, that they may go forward together with courage and perseverance along the path of peace and friendliness, with mutual respect for people's dignity and freedom for the full development of each individual and for the good of the whole country."
Most Reverend John H. Ricard
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, International Policy Committee