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Maronite patriarch to visit Detroit church Wednesday

Candice Williams, and Mark Hicks

The spiritual leader of the world’s Maronite Catholics is headed to a Detroit church for a service Wednesday, officials said.

Patriarch Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, is set to celebrate a Mass at St. Maron Maronite Catholic Church on the city’s east side. The church is considered the first Maronite Cathedral in the United States, according to its website.

Msgr. Louis Baz, pastor of St. Maron, said Rai is visiting Metro Detroit Maronites as the church acknowledges the Holy Year of Mercy.

Baz said he expects 400 to 500 people to attend the ceremony on Wednesday at the church on the 11000 block of Kercheval. Afterward, there will be an hour where people can meet Rai and take pictures.

“Of course, he’s going to talk about the Middle East and the condition of the Middle East, also Lebanon, which doesn’t have a president,” he said. “That’s a very important issue for him.”

Parishioners also are expected to announce the launch of an educational scholarship in the patriarch’s name, coordinators said.

Maronite Catholics, who trace their origins to the Middle East, are among the largest Eastern-rite communities of the Roman Catholic church.

The Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East previously visited St. Maron in May 2012. At that time, Metro Detroit Muslim leaders also invited him to two Dearborn mosques.

The leader’s latest Michigan stop is part of his journey around the country through next month, officials said. He is visiting churches within the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, an Eastern-Catholic Maronite Diocese, before presiding at the Annual Convention of the National Apostolate of Maronites in San Francisco.

In 2011 he was elected as the 77th Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, succeeding Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir. Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 2012.

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