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Location: Birmingham, MI, United States

Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Text of Speech Welcoming HE Patriarch Sfeir

Pre-Liturgy VIP Reception ~ Pastor's Kercheval Residence
Cathedral of St. Maron Church ~ Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 5:00 PM
Welcome, Bienvenue & Ahlan-wa-sahlan to Sayedna as he returns to visit his Maronite flock here in the United States. Welcome also to the extraordinary delegation of Maronite Bishops traveling with him and gracing us with their company.

As Chairman & CEO of the national Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce and a Member of the Cathedral of St. Maron's Maronite Church Parish Council, let me just say how pleased we are to have all of you with us this evening.

I would also like to take this time to introduce to you my fellow Council Members: Dr. George Ghafari, Dr. George Ghanem, Mr. Fernand Saad, Mr. Rodolph Jabbour and Mr. Eddie O'Brien. In addition, I see so many of our Church leaders present among us this evening including, Dr. Daher Rahi, Mr. Mike Michaels, Mr. George El Hajj, and Attorney Don Howard. And a special welcome to Maguy Makhlouf and our friends from Tele Lumiere, Tania Mehanna and her crew from LBC, and our Maronite Sisters who have traveled from their Convent at our Shrine in Ohio to join us on this special day.

As you all know, so much planning has gone into making this once-in-a-lifetime event a huge success and I ask you all to join me in a major round of applause for our Pastor and his tireless efforts to make this Commemoration so spectacular, Father Ghattas Khoury.

Forty years ago a group of Maronite faithful led by my own grandmother Labebe Assaff, welcomed to America with open arms our beloved Archbishop Francis Zayek, who is here with us today. Led by Labebe, they laid the groundwork, for the beginning of what has truly become a national Maronite Community in the United States, now with 2 Eparchy's.

During the historic visit of the late great Pope John Paul II to our beloved Lebanon – he left our fellow Lebanese with this thought: "Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message." Well my friends, Lebanon’s messenger comes to us today. And the message he brings us is one of hope, faith, renewal, love, devotion and belief, But, perhaps the most important message of all, is one of optimism.

For as long as I shall live I will always remember the chants of 'Hurieyh, Seyedeh, Istahlal.' And it is my fervent hope to one day tell my children that when they hear and read these words, and understand their meaning, that it is due to this Shepard – Cardinal Peter Sfeir who sought to see that every inch of Lebanon’s 10,452 km2 was free from foreign occupation, aggression and hegemony.

Today, he is the one who reminds those of us in the Lebanese Diaspora to work together for a common cause and most importantly, to remain united. And, my dear brothers and sisters, it is true. For if we remain united - there is nothing we cannot do and there is no one that can separate us.

Again, on behalf of all of us assembled here this evening, I wish to say welcome to Patriarch Sfeir and may God grant him long life. Let us all look to the future and build a prosperous Lebanon together.

Long may you live and long live Lebanon: free, sovereign, independent and democratic!

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">