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In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace

By Deacon Keith Fournier
9/16/2012 (5 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

The significance of this apostolic visit to Lebanon by the Vicar of Christ cannot be overstated

One can only expect that many among those who care for the Pope in his Petrine ministry have expressed their concerns for his safety given the escalation of violence in the region. However, this danger will not deter his determination to visit the region. He is a man of great courage and profound living faith. We ask our readers around the world to pray for him during this historic visit.

Lebanon prepares for the Vicar of Christ

Lebanon prepares for the Vicar of Christ

Highlights

P>BEIRUT, Lebanon (Catholic Online) - On Sunday, September 9, 2012, before the horrific attacks on the US Embassy in Egypt, the US Consulate in Libya, the US Embassy compound in Yemen and now the growing protests throughout the Nations of Iraq and Iran, Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words to the faithful during his Sunday Angelus Prayer:

"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 cannot 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!"

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros al-Rai told Vatican Radio's Tracey McClure that the focus of this papal visit was the role of the Churches of the Middle East and how they can and must contribute to a future of peace in the region. "I think the Apostolic Exhortation is a gift of Divine providence in this difficult moment. It will present a series of challenges confronting the Christians of the region and propose some solutions and a way to proceed".

The Patriarch claimed that the Muslim community was "very enthusiastic about the Pope's visit" and expressed his belief that "the Pope will help bring the dawn of peace to the region." And that the "real Arab Spring will arrive as the fruit of a Christian Spring and we can help to achieve this through communion and witness to love".

He added, "This is a region torn by conflict and war and this exhortation will present a new way of presenting positive solutions to the conflict and political tensions. It is important that the Church speaks a language of peace, dialogue and understanding, because the Arab world only hears the language of hatred and violence both regionally and internationally, unfortunately. Violence and war will never bring about a new Spring - Only the opposite".

The Holy Father's plans to travel to Lebanon have been underway for some time. He has often expressed his profound concern for the Christians of the middle East and conviction of the necessity of their continued presence there. He is traveling there to encourage them in their faith and reaffirm their vital role.

One can only expect that many among those who care for the Pope in his Petrine ministry have expressed their concerns for his safety given the escalation of violence in the region. However, this danger will not deter his determination to visit the region. He is a man of great courage and profound living faith. We ask our readers around the world to pray for him during this historic visit.

Shortly after his arrival on Friday, September 14, 2012, he will travel to the Melkite Greek Catholic basilica of St. Paul in Harissa where he will sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the vital Role of the Church in the Middle East. This highly anticipated Apostolic Exhortation follows the Synod of Bishops of the Middle East which was held in October of 2010 in Rome. That gathering was dedicated to the theme "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness." 

On Saturday morning he will meet with government leaders. Prime Minister Najib Mikati  praised the papal visit in the National press, calling it historic and expressing hope that it will lead to a partnership for peace. He called a Cabinet session on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 where he noted that the session was:
 
"being held two days before the historic event which we will witness for Pope Benedict XVI's three-day visit to announce the apostolic exhortation for the Christians of the Middle East." He expressed his hope that  "all Lebanese, Christians and Muslims are awaiting his holiness's arrival on Friday and all trust that his visit will bring good and peace as well as a return to true partnership between the peoples of the East."

That session with government leaders will be followed by a meeting between the pope and Muslim Leaders. The Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hasan al-Amin, spoke to the  Lebanese Daily Star and referred to the  "blessed visit". He drew parallels with the visit of Blessed john Paul II in 1997. He said the visit was "a sign that Lebanon has a great place in the Vatican" and expressed hope that its impact  would be felt not only by Christians but by all the Lebanese.

The Holy Father will then lunch with the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon, members of the Special Council for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops and the papal entourage in the refectory of the Armenian Catholic Patriachate of Bzommar. Finally, in the evening, as is his custom, he will meet with the youth in an open air session on the square across from the Maronite Patriarchate of Bkerké.

On Sunday morning he will conclude the visit by offering an open air Mass at Beiruts waterfront where he will preach the homily and then make the formal presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East in the Beirut City Center Waterfront. Then, he will lead the Angelus and give an address. That will be followed by an ecumenical meeting in the Hall of Honor of the Syro-Catholic Patriarchate of Charfet and his departure for Rome.

The significance of this apostolic visit to Lebanon by the Vicar of Christ cannot be overstated. Its timing is prophetic and its message is urgent. The Christian faithful throughout the world need to pray for the Successor of Peter as he travels on this mission of peace. We also need to pray for the success of his efforts. Finally, we need to pray in solidarity with our Christian brethren in the Middle East in their time of travail.  
 
At his Wednesday General audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words to the faithful: "I exhort all Christians of the Middle East, both those born there and the newly arrived, to be builders of peace and architects of reconciliation. Let us pray to God that he may fortify the faith of Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East, and fill them with hope.

"The history of the Middle East teaches us the important and sometimes primordial role played by the various Christian communities in inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. Let us ask God to give that region of the world its longed-for peace, and respect for legitimate differences."

The Vatican news Agency issued the following report on the visit.  

"The Pope is going to Lebanon as a "messenger of peace" and the dramatically mounting tension that still today affects the entire region of the Middle East, "far from discouraging him have made his desire" to undertake this journey "even more pressing". On the eve of Benedict XVI's departure, offers a key to interpreting the papal visit, describing  it as "an invitation to leaders in the Middle East and to the international community to work with determination to find fair and lasting solutions for the region".

In a September 13 interview with Le Figaro, a French daily, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vaticans Secretary of State, noted that "for the Pope the advancement of human rights -  and first among them the right of religious freedom - is the most effective strategy for building the common good. " He also said that the Pope "intends to be a prophetic and a moral voice", asking "all men and women of good will to ensure that religion is never an incentive for war and division".

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