Skip to comments.Pope On Peace Visit To Lebanon
Posted on 09/12/2012 11:54:50 AM PDT by NYer
ROME, Italy/BEIRUT, Lebanon (DPA) — Pope Benedict XVI heads for Lebanon on Friday to bring a message of peace and reconciliation to a region shaken by religious tensions, civil war in Syria and the enduring Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“My apostolic mission to Lebanon, and by extension to the whole Middle East, takes place under the banner of peace,” the pontiff said Sunday, in his traditional noon Angelus prayer.
Calling on “all parties” to seek peace and reconciliation, he said he “understood the anguish” of local people and expressed concern for “those who, in search for an area of peace, leave their family and professional life and experience the precarious status of exiles.”
Lebanon is currently hosting about 59,000 Syrian refugees, according to estimates released last week by the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.
The Vatican has repeatedly denied any possibility of cancelling the trip for safety reasons. In a bid to increase security, Lebanese authorities have decided to suspend most weapons licences during Benedict’s stay.
“All Lebanese security apparatuses are on a state of alert poised to protect His Holiness the pope,” says Father Abdo Abou Kasm, who is in charge of media coordination for the visit.
Lasting from Friday to Sunday, the German pope’s trip will be his fourth to the region. He visited Turkey in 2006, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2009, and Cyprus in 2010.
The stated aim of this visit is the signing and publication of the final document from a 2010 synod of Middle Eastern bishops, in which concern was expressed about the dwindling presence of Christians in the region.
In Lebanon, the pontiff will meet local religious leaders, politicians and celebrate mass in Beirut on Sunday. He is also scheduled to meet with some 30,000 Lebanese youth on Saturday.
Christians make up 39 percent of the country’s population of 4.1 million. Lebanon is the spiritual centre of the Maronite church, which follows the Catholic church in Rome. It is the third-largest of the 22 Eastern churches.
The visit “means a lot to us Lebanese and Christians in the Middle East at this time, because we feel someone is really praying for us and wants to assure us that we are protected if we stay in this troubled region,” Samia Leisha, a Christian mother of three, tells dpa.
Her remarks exemplify the concerns of many Christians who feel threatened by the rise to power of Islamist parties in countries such as Egypt, following last year’s Arab Spring uprisings.
“Yes we are afraid, we cannot hide it. The pope’s visit to Lebanon will give us hope and assure us to stay here rather than move to Europe to be safe,” says Carol Abu Habib, a 24-year-old Christian shop vender in Asharfiyeh.
She worries that the 18-month conflict in Syria is slowly spilling over into Lebanon, especially in the Sunni-dominant northern areas, where Christians are a minority.
In recent months, clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in the northern Lebanese port town of Tripoli have left more than 100 people dead and 200 wounded.
Lebanese Christian clergymen have assured their followers that Benedict will reinforce the message brought by his predecessor, John Paul II, in 1997.
“Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message of peace and coexistence between the East and the West,” the late pope said at the time.
Exponents of other religions have also welcomed the pontiff’s arrival.
Former Sunni Muslim prime minister Saad Hariri says it is “a sign of hope for all the Lebanese and not only Christians ... and a message of love and peace.”
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Shiite Hezbollah, has saluted the pope’s visit as “historical” for both Muslims and Christians.
What will our media say if the “Arab Spring” goes after the Pope?
There are plans for more protests Friday in Egypt so the ‘Hood” is on a roll and the Pope is making himself a target. Now that is bravery. But if he should fall the world will not be able to pretend that islam is a religion of peace.
Something tells me he is going no matter.
The vision of St. John Bosco comes to mind.
Yes! I read it.
God’s will be done.
Prayers going up for the Holy Father’s safety..
As you may already know, I am Roman Catholic but practice my faith in a Maronite Catholic parish. The See of the Maronite Church, is in Bkerke, Lebanon. Our young pastor (only 34), is a monastic missionary priest. Since retirement, I volunteer 2 days at the rectory where I compile materials for and publish the weekly bulletin. This morning, I spoke with the priest about the unrest in the Middle East and its possible impact on the pope's visit. We are well aware that this trip was planned earlier in the year and the pope has held steadfast to his plans. We also know that Lebanon is unique in that the christians and muslims assist each other in times of need. After all the reassurances, he said something that exemplifies the depth of faith of those christians. He explained that if anything should happen to the pope during this visit to Lebanon, it will be in accordance with the will of God. This sentiment runs deep in that part of the world. If you think about it, it makes great sense. If someone wants to kill the pope, they can do it at the Vatican or on any of his trips. Rest assured, though, that the country has prepared for the Holy Father's visit and the people are very excited to welcome him. Both christians and muslims have been offering up a week of prayers for Pope Benedict.