On Saturday, 05 March 2011, Patriarch Gregorios III, in company with the Syrian Catholic and Armenian Catholic Patriarchs, attended the Jubilee and farewell celebration of the Maronite Divine Liturgy in Bkerkeh, Lebanon, for Maronite Patriarch Emeritus, Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who, sixty years after his ordination as priest, and almost fifty as bishop and twenty-five as Patriarch, has just retired from his official functions at the age of ninety.
Also attending were the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Bishop Gabriele Caccia, presenting a gift from the Pope, and many bishops from the Maronite and other Catholic Churches, the Orthodox Churches and representatives of Protestant communions. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Designate Najib Mikati were also present, together with other political figures and officials.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter of 26 February 2011, accepting Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros’ resignation “made freely and generously, expressing great humility and profound detachment,” wrote that he was “sure that [the Cardinal Patriarch] would always accompany the way of the Maronite Church, through prayer, wise counsel and sacrifices.”
The Synod of Bishops of the Maronite Church will begin meetings to elect a new leader on 9 March. The process, including several days of spiritual retreat, may take up to fifteen days.