Top Shiite Cleric in Lebanon Dies
Sheikh Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine, president of the Lebanese Higher Shiite Council, died at the age of 66 on Wednesday after a long struggle with cancer, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
News of the sheikh’s death was announced in a brief, live televised statement by Speaker Nabih Berri, who had just returned to Beirut from an official visit to Kuwait, said the daily.
Berri, overcome by emotion, described Shamseddine’s passing as a loss to Lebanon as well as the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Shamseddine was admitted to the intensive care unit at St. George’s Hospital earlier in the day, where he was reported to be in stable condition.
In a separate statement issued on Wednesday, the paper said that the Higher Shiite Council said that various officials, clerics and notables had called on Shamseddine the same day, “as soon as they heard he had been admitted to hospital.”
Visitors included Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, acting Druze spiritual leader Bahjat Ghaith, and information minister Ghazi Aridi.
Shamseddine had returned to Lebanon less than two weeks ago after undergoing three months of cancer treatment in a Paris hospital, according to the Lebanese paper.
A statement issued by the Higher Shiite Council said his life was marked by “great achievements that spread beyond Lebanon, the Arab and Islamic worlds to cover all parts of the world, bearing fruit in the intellectual, religious and political domains.”
Shamseddine published several books on religious history and culture and was known for his moderation and diplomacy.
He completed his religious studies in the Iraqi town of Najaf, where he was born and later taught.
Shamseddine returned to Lebanon in 1968, and worked alongside Imam Musa Sadr.
He was elected first deputy president of the Council in September 1975, and following Sadr’s disappearance in August 1978, assumed the council’s administration, said the daily.
In February 1989, Shamseddine and other Lebanese religious leaders accepted an invitation from a six-member committee chaired by the then-Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to meet in Kuwait and discuss the Lebanese civil war.
He was elected president of the Higher Shiite Council on March 18th, 1993.
In July of last year, Shamseddine was admitted to the American University Hospital in Beirut for surgery and later traveled to Paris for further treatment. He returned to Lebanon on December 31st, said the paper.
Condolences will be received at the Council’s headquarters on Thursday, while funeral services will be held on Friday, said the paper -- Albawaba.com