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Lebanon bids farewell to prominent ex-Maronite patriarch

AFP  |  Bkirki (Lebanon) 

on Thursday laid to rest the former patriarch of its after a packed religious service for the

Sfeir, who wielded considerable political influence during the country's civil war and was an ardent advocate of a Syrian troop withdrawal, was buried in the seat of the in the northern town of

Hundreds of mourners took part in the funeral, including clergymen and local and foreign dignitaries, among them French

"He was a man of peace," Le Drian said. "Throughout his entire life, he was an of Lebanese national reconciliation." Cardinal led a delegation from the Vatican.

was a "free and courageous man" who sought reconciliation and sovereignty for his country, Sandri told mourners.

The former patriarch died on Sunday, two weeks after he was hospitalised with a

"Sfeir's death is a loss to the nation," said the incumbent Patriarch Beshara Rai. "He is the patriarch of national reconciliation," he added.

was a during the 1975-1990 civil war, which saw bitter infighting between rival militias including opposing Christian factions.

His backing of the 1989 Taif agreement, which brought the 15-year civil war to an end, bolstered Christian support for the accord.

Sfeir also spearheaded the opposition to Syria's three decades of military and political domination over

His outspokenness helped swell the anti-movement in 2000.

It eventually led to the withdrawal of thousands of Syrian troops from the country five years later, following the assassination of former Rafik Hariri, whose murder the opposition blamed on

During his tenure, Sfeir also played a key role within Lebanon's fractious political scene, often adopting stances that earned him stiff rebukes from some of the country's rival factions, such as Hezbollah and its Christian allies.

After he stepped down in 2011, Sfeir's opinion and advice continued to be sought by politicians of all stripes, not only Christians, until his death.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 17 2019. 00:00 IST