Maronite patriarch steps down at age 90

Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir

Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir

March 7, 2011

Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the 90-year-old head of the Maronite Catholic Church.

Sfeir has been patriarch of the Lebanon-based Maronite Church since 1986 when his country was in the midst of civil war.

As the head of an Eastern Catholic Church, Sfeir could have served for life but chose to ask the pope to accept his resignation.

In November 1989, supporters of one Christian leader, Gen. Michel Aoun, broke into the patriarch's Beirut offices and ransacked them, dragged the patriarch from his bed and asked him to kiss the general's picture.

The cardinal said he refused.