Vatican says pope’s Lebanon trip still a go despite violence
The Vatican confirmed on Wednesday (Sept. 12) that Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon will go ahead as planned, despite growing tension in the region after the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya by a mob enraged by an anti-Islam film.
The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican was closely monitoring developments in the region but there were no signs of specific security concerns for Benedict’s trip so far.
Benedict is scheduled to leave on Friday for a three-day visit to Lebanon despite rising instability spilling over from a deadly civil war in neighboring Syria. The visit is also a signal of the Vatican’s concern for Christian minorities in the Middle East who feel under threat after the upheavals of the Arab spring revolutions.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, hailed the “Holy Father’s brave visit to Lebanon” in Washington Wednesday (Sept. 12) and lamented the “thousands upon thousands” of persecuted Christians fleeing the Middle East.
“These Christian families want to stay in the ancient lands of their birth but too often make the diffucult decision to leave as a result of harrassment or violent threats by extremists,” said Dolan. [more]