Huge crowds mourn slain Lebanese Christian leader

 A huge funeral Mass for Pierre Amine Gemayel, was presided over by Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir yesterday. At the service in Beirut's St Georges Maronite Cathedral, the Cardinal called for unity in the divided country. An estimated 800,000 people gathered in central Beirut as Mr Gemayel's white coffin, was carried through the streets towards St George's Maronite Cathedral. Crowds of mourners waving red, white and green Lebanese flags and those of Christian factions packed Martyrs' Square. Shops, schools, banks and government offices were closed on a day of mourning. Inside the cathedral, the congregation. which included the assassinated industry minister's father, the former president Amin Gemayel, sang hymns. Mr Gemayel's wife leaned on his mother's shoulder and wept. Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the head of the Maronite Church, presided over the ceremony. The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, and the parliamentary speaker, Nabih Berri, were among those present. Priests chanted prayers as Mr Gemayel's coffin and that of his bodyguard, Samir Shartuni, were carried into the church to the traditional applause from the congregation. During the ceremony, a Jesuit priest read a message from Pope Benedict XVI who condemned the "unspeakable" assassination and called for unity in Lebanon. Foreign envoys, including French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Arab League chief Amr Mussa, joined the mourners for Mr Gemayel, the sixth critic of Syria to be assassinated in the past two years. After silence during the funeral prayers, the sea of protesters in Martyrs' Square broke into anti-Syrian political speeches, chanting and music. Leaders from Beirut's Sunni Muslim, Druze and Christian communities have accused Syria of killing Mr Gemayel, who comes from one of Lebanon's most prominent Maronite families. Mr Gemayel and his bodyguard, Samir Shartuni, were killed in a Beirut suburb in broad daylight on Tuesday, when gunmen shot them at point-blank range after ramming their car. The killing was the sixth of an anti-Syrian figure in Lebanon in less than two years, and provoked condemnation from all quarters and appeals for calm.

Share this story