On behalf of Pope Benedictus VXI, His Beatitude the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir bestowed on former Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares, a high-level Papal Order from the rank of Commander with star of Saint Gregory the Great, in a ceremony held at Mr. Issam and Mrs. Hala Fares residence in Paris. In addition to the family members, the event was attended by Lebanon’s Ambassador in France Mr. Butros Asaker and his wife Najla, Lebanon’s Ambassador for the international organizations in Geneva, the Maronite Patriarchal Vicar General, Archbishop Roland Abou Jaoude, the Vice- Patriarch in Paris and the Apostolic See Bishops Saed Saed and Tony Gebran, and the Patriarchal caretaker, Reverend Joseph el-Boueiri.
The Patriarch handed over to Fares the papal certificate which was granted ‘in recognition of his positive contributions in the service of justice, peace, and human rights, in the promotion of the dialogue of cultures, and in the enhancement of the reconciliation spirit among individuals and groups inside Lebanon and overseas, and for the pioneer developmental initiatives undertaken by the Fares Foundation, aiming at removing the obstacles impeding human development by improving the opportunities for progress and development, alleviating social tensions, and develop academic and cultural energies among the emerging generations.
The Patriarch’s Speech
His Beatitude the Patriarch pronounced the following speech:
‘We are delighted to reunite with you this evening and to thank His Excellency Mr. Issam Fares and his respectful wife Mrs. Hala Fares for hosting us with great love, which we share with appreciation. It is a pleasure for us, Your Excellency, to grant you this high-level Papal Order bestowed on you by the Supreme Pontiff His Holiness Benedictus VXI.
The bestowal on you of this high Order proves the exceptional position you occupy in the heart of His Holiness, and personally in my own heart. It affirms that deep esteem for your person to have taken pioneer humanitarian initiatives in Lebanon and overseas, met to a great extent the demands of poor people in need, met the great ambitions of education-loving young people and high aspirations of people in charge of study and research centers, provided the components of the global human development in various sectors and arenas. Your achievements were tantamount to Christian impartial giving, setting an example that is devoid from any interest, overcoming distinction and discrimination, which is the reason behind the honoring and esteem shown to you by a great number of international references, crowned today by the gesture of His Holiness The Pope.
Every time you are honored in the international forums, you dedicate your honoring to your nation Lebanon, which is permanent need of you as a reference in giving and amicability, as an effective reference for the recovery of its national life, and as an essential contributor in its economic and social recovery.
Mr. Fares Speech
Upon the bestowal of the Papal order on him, Fares pronounced a speech in which he said, ‘I accept this high Order with thanks and pride, not only because it emanates from the highest Catholic Authority in the world, the Supreme Pontiff Pope Benedictus XVI, but also because he who bestows it on me in the highest Maronite reference in Lebanon and the world, His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, the Patriarch of Antioch& All the East’.
Fares went on saying, ‘You wanted personally to bestow the Order on me and you insisted on holding the ceremony in this residence to bless us as you have already blessed us recently when you paid a visit to our residence in Bayno where you pronounced an impressive speech that emanates from your big heart which holds Lebanon’s concerns and which safeguards its identity, heritage, and role. As for the humanitarian, academic, and developmental achievements you had hailed, I affirm that I would not have realized them had I not believed firmly in the teachings of Jesus Christ, mainly ‘love each other’.
Later, the memorial photo was taken, and H.E. Mr. Fares threw a dinner banquet in honor of Patriarch Sfeir and the invitees.
It is worth-noting that Patriarch Sfeir and President Fares had held, prior to the bestowal of the order, a 45-minute closed-door session during which they exposed the prevailing situation in Lebanon and the external developments affecting the Lebanese scene.
An Icon to Hala Fares
Moreover, the Maronite Patriarch bestowed on Mrs. Hala Issam Fares the Patriarchal icon of Our Lady of Qannoubine in recognition of her humanitarian and social role.
It is to mention that Mr. Fares received a number of congratulation telegrams and phone calls, mainly from H.E. President of the Lebanese Republic Michel Sleiman, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV, and General Army Commander Michel Qahwaji.