Syria's ambassador to Beirut on Wednesday invited new Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai to visit Damascus, after years of tense ties with the Lebanese church.
"I am here to convey President Bashar al-Assad's congratulations and warm wishes to his Excellency and invite him to Damascus, where he is always welcome," Ambassador Ali Abdel Karim Ali told reporters at the church's headquarters in Bkerke, northeast of Beirut.
"Damascus wants the best for Lebanon, as his eminence knows, and is fully supportive of the patriarch as he carries out his vocation, and of the strengthening of brotherly ties."
Bishop Beshara Rai, 71, on Tuesday was elected the 77th patriarch of Lebanon's Maronites, the country's largest Christian community which makes up about one third of the four-million population.
Lebanon's Christians are split politically. Some are allied with the Sunni Muslim camp and others with Shiite factions.
Rai was elected by a conclave of bishops after six days of consultations to find a successor to 90-year-old Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, who resigned last month to allow a younger bishop to take his place.
Sfeir served as patriarch for 25 years and became a strong critic of Syria's military presence in Lebanon, calling on Damascus to pull troops out in 2000, after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. Syrian forces eventually withdrew in 2005.
After several years of strained relations, Lebanon and Syria agreed to establish diplomatic ties in October 2008 for the first time since their independence 60 years ago.
Ali took up the post of Damascus' first ambassador to Beirut in 2009.
Under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.