Maronite Patriarch Nasr Allah Sfeir, a vocal critic of Syria's influence in Lebanon, opposes President Emile Lahud's intention to remain in office after his term ends in November.
The Lebanese constitution currently does not allow for term extension. However, a hastily convened cabinet requested such a constitutional change to extend Lahud's term by three years on Saturday, despite opposition from the prime minister and prominent politicians, including some traditional allies of powerful neighbour Syria.
"What happened yesterday regarding the constitution and the presidency is unfamiliar, plotted by night and carried out swiftly by day," Sfeir said on Sunday during mass at the church's seat in the mountains of northern Lebanon.
Calling for God's help
"Those directly involved were seized to express a view imposed on them, and obeyed submissively," he said. "I call on all to be aware...and for God to help Lebanon and the Lebanese."
Syria flooded Lebanon with troops during the 1975-1990 civil war, later affirming its grip through broad influence in the presidency, military and security services.
"What happened yesterday regarding the constitution and the presidency is unfamiliar, plotted by night and carried out swiftly by day"
Nasr Allah Sfeir,
Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch
But Sfeir's objections have been echoed by politicians closer to Damascus, including Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, whose allies in the cabinet rejected the plan.
The US State Department said last week the presidency should be a Lebanese choice rather than a Syrian one, and determined according to Lebanon's constitution, a position repeated by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Damascus.
Washington is pressuring Syria to cut support for Lebanon's Hizb Allah and pull its troops out of the country.