On Wednesday 5 January 2000, their Excellencies the Maronite Bishops held at Bkerke, their monthly meeting which was presided over by His Beatitude Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. They studied church and national matters. At the end of the meeting, they issued the following communiqué:

1-The events in the North and the preceding symptoms, which augured their occurrence, left numerous questions as to their gravity, timing and aims. Specially that the state and the backing forces for keeping security have eyes to watch, ears to listen and a hand to suppress in an area where there are dense security forces. But the determination shown by the Lebanese army to put an end to the sedition, in spite of the high cost paid by eleven soldiers, who paid their lives calls for congratulation and encouragement. Moreover, it shows that the Lebanese army is capable to deal efficiently with all security matters, if left to do so, and to handle courageously every national task entrusted to him, particularly along the country's borders. We extend our condolences to the parents and relatives of the killed soldiers and for all those who suffered because of the events, asking God to have mercy on them.

2- The attack against the Russian Embassy in Beirut, which accompanied the events in the North, and the speeches and militia manifestations, the Lebanese People wishes to forget, which preceded it are a dangerous sign. It is not known if it has any connection with resuming of the negotiations in the US between Syria and Israel about withdrawals and relation normalization. Also, we cannot forget or ignore the recent military operation that took place in south Lebanon (within the frontier zone) and hit peaceful Lebanese citizens. The operation could have been performed away from inhabited areas.

3- The murder of the Antonine nun, Sister Antoinette Zeidan, with the signs of violence that accompanied it, is mostly strongly condemned. This murder strikes the religious and educational values for which she lived. We extend our deeply felt condolences to her Congregation and relatives, and call on the authorities to uncover the attacker in order to avert the sedition and safeguard the lives of those who have vowed themselves to the service of the Lebanese society in all its sectors. Such sacrifices, no matter how precious and painful they are, will not deter this congregation and other similar congregations from pursuing their religious and humanitarian mission.

4- The series of explosions that targeted numerous churches do not inspire confidence; neither do the events mentioned above. These incidents take us back to the start of the Lebanese wars in 1975. We thank God that they are now all memories from the past that will not return, but continuous alertness is required from everybody. We were comforted by the comprehensive condemnation expressed by most Lebanese groups and leaders in regards to latest events. It is a positive sign that we mostly need to exhibit our national unity.

5- The peace negotiations which are being held in the US, and to which Lebanon is waiting to be summoned, requires that all Lebanese hold one single position towards them, so that their destiny be not decided in their absence. Crucial decisions must be taken which will have negative or positive impact, for a long time, over the independence of Lebanon, its sovereignty and free determination.

6- Now, that the celebrations of the grand Jubilee have started, we are very happy to declare that the relics of St. Maroun, father of the Maronite Church, have been returned to Kfarhay in Batroun. The tradition says that they have been taken to Rome nine hundred years ago.
Meanwhile our Maronite Church will hold in this respect celebrations in Rome under the chairmanship of His Beatitude, on February 9/2000, St. Maroun's annual feast day.
The Fathers call upon their sons and brothers to intensify their prayers, especially during the week of prayer for the Unity of Christians, to fulfill Christ’s wish. May the Holy year be a year of graces, blessings and peace for Lebanon, the region and the world.
Bkerke, January 7/1999