DAILY STAR (Lebanon): Pope's trip to Lebanon 'act of courage, hope'
Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon next week is "considered an act of great courage and hope worldwide" as a civil war rages in neighboring Syria, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Saturday.
Lebanon, which has a significant Catholic community, was selected for the September 14-16 trip "before the situation in Syria escalated into an overt and bloody conflict," Lombardi wrote in an editorial for the Vatican weekly Octava Dies.
He said the Arab Spring and the Syrian situation make the church's engagement with the region's Christian communities even "more urgent".
He added that problems identified at a special synod of bishops two years ago on the Middle East were now more acute, issues such as dialogue between Islam and Judaism, religious freedom and democracy.
Lebanon has been battling to contain an eruption of violence triggered by the events in Syria, including a spate of mass kidnappings that recalled the dark days of the country's own civil war.
Benedict is expected to bring a message of peace for the Middle East on his three-day trip.
VATICAN RADIO: Pope: The priority of peace for the Middle East
Pope Benedict XVI: Dear pilgrims, those of you here, or who are taking part in the Angelus through radio or television; in the coming days, I will make an apostolic visit to Lebanon to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, fruit of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, held in October 2010. I will have the happy opportunity to meet with the Lebanese people and authorities, and the Christians of that beloved country and those from neighboring countries.
I am aware of the often dramatic situation experienced by the people of this region, too long torn apart by incessant conflicts. I understand the anguish of many Middle Eastern people immersed in daily sufferings of all kinds, which sadly, and at times mortally, plague their personal and family life. My concerned thoughts go out to those who, in search of a place of peace, leave their family and professional life, and experience the precariousness of being exiles. Even though the search for solutions to the various problems affecting the region seems difficult, we can not resign ourselves to the violence and exasperation of tensions. A commitment to dialogue and reconciliation must be a priority for all parties involved, and must be supported by the international community, increasingly aware of the importance of a stable and lasting peace in the region for the whole world.
My apostolic visit to Lebanon, and by extension in the Middle East as a whole, is placed under the sign of peace, referring to the words of Christ: "My peace I give to you" (John 14:27). May God bless Lebanon and the Middle East! May God bless you all!
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