Pope Benedict XVI prepares to embark on high-risk trip to Lebanon
The three-day visit is also the pope’s first foray into the Middle East after the Arab Spring, giving him the opportunity to reassure the region’s Christian minorities who fear the recent rise to power of Islamist leaders in the region.
“My apostolic voyage in Lebanon, and by extension in the Middle East in its entirety, comes under the sign of peace,” Benedict said Sunday during the Angelus prayer at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Despite the “dramatic situation” of a region torn by “incessant conflict,” people “shouldn’t resign themselves to violence or worsening tensions,” he added.
Officially, Benedict travels to Lebanon to hand over “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” the final document of a 2010 meeting of Middle East bishops at the Vatican.
But the conflict in Syria — between Sunni-led rebels and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the minority Alawite faith with links to Shiite Islam — will loom large over the trip.
In recent weeks sectarian clashes between Alawites and Sunnis broke out in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, threatening the country’s fragile equilibrium among religious groups. [More]
RNS/The Washington Post