Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, has welcomed the election of a new Lebanese president, which ended a two-and-a-half-year power vacuum that had crippled the country’s institutions of government.

Cardinal Rai also expressed his hope for the acceleration of a unified government and “direct action to save Lebanon from the political, economic and social suffering.”

The cardinal urged newly elected President Michel Aoun and other politicians to heed the words of the apostle Paul, to forget what lies behind and to forge ahead to the future.

Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the presidential post is reserved for a Maronite Catholic. Aoun, 81, elected on October 31, is the only Christian head of state in the Arab world.

Aoun’s election follows 45 successive failed attempts by the legislators to elect a president since the mandate of former President Michel Suleiman ended in May 2014, a reflection of the sectarian power struggle that defines Lebanon’s politics. Aoun is the 13th president since Lebanon gained independence from France in 1943.

The presidential stalemate was broken ahead of the October 31 voting when Sunni Muslim leader Saad Hariri, Saudi Arabia’s closest ally in Lebanon, reversed his objections to Aoun’s nomination and gave him his support.

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