VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, the 90-year-old head of the Maronite Catholic Church.
In a letter Feb. 26, Pope Benedict said the cardinal began his ministry as patriarch or head of the Maronite Church in 1986, "in the turmoil of the war that bloodied Lebanon for too many years. With the ardent desire for peace for your country, you have guided this church and traveled the world to comfort your people who were forced to emigrate."
"Peace finally came back," the pope said, and while it is "always fragile," it continues to reign in Lebanon.
As the head of an Eastern Catholic Church, Cardinal Sfeir could have served for life but chose to ask the pope to accept his resignation.
In a country where religious identity and political identity often are entwined, Cardinal Sfeir has been criticized at times for being too political, while at other times he was criticized for not engaging directly enough in the practical affairs of the country.