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Lebanese bishops begin meetings to elect patriarch

FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001 file photo, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head for Lebanon's Maronite church, waves during a visit to the Chouf Mountains. Last week, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of 90-year-old Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, who had asked to be relieved of his post because of his age. Lebanese bishops will meet this month to elect a new spiritual head for Lebanon's Maronite church, the largest Catholic church in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001 file photo, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head for Lebanon's Maronite church, waves during a visit to the Chouf Mountains. Last week, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of 90-year-old Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, who had asked to be relieved of his post because of his age. Lebanese bishops will meet this month to elect a new spiritual head for Lebanon's Maronite church, the largest Catholic church in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File) (Hussein Malla - AP)
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The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 11:56 AM

BEIRUT -- Lebanon's Maronite bishops are meeting to elect a new patriarch for the Middle East's largest Catholic church.

The closed-door meeting behind closed doors started Wednesday evening and could last two weeks at Bkirki, northeast of Beirut. About 40 bishops will spend their time holding prayers and consultations.

The head of the Maronite Church, which has up to 5 million followers worldwide, exerts significant influence in Lebanon, where Christians make up about 40 percent of the country's 4 million people.

The outgoing patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, was deeply involved in Lebanon's fractious politics. The 90-year-old Sfeir asked to be relieved of his post because of his age. Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation last month.


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