Pope Benedict XVI ends Lebanon trip, urges interreligious harmony
“I will appeal to all of you to be peacemakers, wherever you find yourselves,” Benedict told several hundred thousand worshipers in an open-air seaside Mass, the culminating event of his trip. “In a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship.”
The pope’s visit, embraced by this nation’s diverse religious and ethnic groups, provided a pointed contrast to the turmoil that has been roiling the region. The pontiff arrived as the war in neighboring Syria raged and protesters angered about an anti-Muslim film made in the United States took to the streets of numerous Arab nations.
The 85-year-old pope, frail but seeming to possess a reserve of energy, has been met by enthusiastic crowds and received a warm reception from Muslim and Christian leaders. More than one-third of Lebanon’s population is Christian, the highest such proportion in the region.
Lebanon, a nation of 4 million, has lived in a sometimes uneasy peace since 1990, when its devastating civil war finally came to an end after 15 years of sectarian bloodshed.
Much of downtown Beirut was shut to traffic Sunday and soldiers guarded intersections. Lebanese and Vatican flags festooned the streets and thousands of Lebanese and others walked beneath a blazing sun to the Mass. Organizers said about 350,000 attended the service along the Mediterranean Sea.
The pope again invoked the suffering in neighboring Syria and called on Arab and international leaders to take action to halt the violence there. However, he suggested no specific fixes for a crisis that has eluded all international efforts at mediation.
“I appeal to the Arab countries that, as brothers, they might propose workable solutions respecting the dignity, the rights and the religion of every human,” the pope said. “May God grant to your country, to Syria and the Middle East, the gift of peaceful hearts, the silencing of weapons and the cessation of all violence.” [More]