With the death of Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, former head of the Maronite Church, the Church loses a figure who played a prominant part in the troubled recent history of Lebanon.
Born on 15 May 1920 in Reyfoun, in the district of Kesrouan, Cardinal Sfeir was ordained a priest on 7 May 1950, after studying at the Saint-Maron Seminary in Gahzir and at the Major Seminary of St Joseph’s University in Beirut. He completed his philosophical and theological studies at the Faculty of Theology at the University of St Joseph. In the 1950s he taught Literature, Arabic Philosophy and Translation at the College of Marist Fathers in Jounieh, before being elected, in 1961, titular bishop of Tarsus of the Maronites and vicar general for the Patriarchate of Antioch, receiving episcopal ordination from the then Patriarch of the Maronites, Cardinal Paul Pierre Méouchi.
Cardinal in 1994
Nasrallah Sfeir was elected the 76th Maronite Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch on 19 April 1986, in the midst of Lebanon’s civil war. He was confirmed the following 7 May, simultaneously taking the positions of President of the Synod of the Maronite Church and President of the Lebanese Episcopal Conference. In 2006, he was also named President of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East. Pope Saint John Paul II made him a cardinal during the Consistory of 26 November 1994. He resigned as Patriarch of the Maronite Church and from all other positions of pastoral government on 26 February 2011. On the following 15 March, the current Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï took office.
Composition of the College of Cardinals
With the death of Cardinal Sfeir, the College of Cardinals is made up of 221 cardinals, of whom 120 are electors and 101 are non-electors.