The Synod of the Maronite Bishops, held in Bkerke, Lebanon, elected on Tuesday, March 15, 2011, His Excellency Bishop Bechara Rai, Bishop of the Eparchy of Jbeil, Lebanon, as the 77th Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. Patriarch Rai replaces Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, who had retired earlier this year at the age of 91 after twenty-five years as Patriarch.
The son of Youssef and Taminee Rai, he was born in Hemlaya (the town of St. Rafka) on February 25, 1940. He pursued his complementary and secondary studies at the Collège Notre Dame at Jamhour. He took his monastic vows with the Mariamite Order on August 31, 1962; was ordained a priest on September 3, 1967; and was consecrated Archbishop on July 12, 1986.
From 1986 to 1990 he served as a Patriarchal Vicar at Bkerke, and in 1990 he was appointed Archbishop of Jbeil. Patriarch Rai founded Notre Dame University in Louaizé and was its president from1978 -1984. From 1982 to 1986 he presided over the Court of Appeal of the Maronite Tribunal. His Holiness Pope John Paul II named him as the Coordinator of the Synod for Lebanon (1990-1995). He chaired the Episcopal Commission for the Affairs of the Family (1997) and that of Communications since 2009.
Patriarch Rai holds a degree in philosophy and theology and a doctorate in canon and civil law from the University of Saint John Lateran (the Rota Tribunal in Rome). He taught Canon Law and theology at St. Joseph University in Beirut (USJ) and at Holy Spirit University in Kaslik (USEK) and the Sagesse University.
Patriarch Beshara Rai is the first Maronite Patriarch to come from a religious order in more than 200 years. The last in date was Patriarch Toubia el-Khazen (1756-1766), who also was a monk of the Mariamite Order.
Patriarch Rai was enthroned on March 25, 2011.