PAPAL TRIP TO LEBANON SET
Vatican (CWN) -- The Vatican has published the official schedule for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Lebanon on May 10-11-- a visit which the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir has predicted "will recall to the world that this county is occupied, and its people oppressed."
Speaking from the his patriarchal see of Bkerke, north of Beirut, the Maronite leader said that the journalists accompanying the Pope could not help but notice that Lebanon is under foreign occupation, "its sovereignty mocked and its independence endangered." He suggested that the Holy Father, who is "very close to the Lebanese situation," will call further attention to the people's plight.
The principle purpose of the Pope's visit will be to promulgate his apostolic
exhortation on the Church in Lebanon, which reflects the product of a special
synod of Lebanese bishops, held in Rome in 1997. The synod, which was primarily concerned with the spiritual welfare of the Lebanese people, did also call for "an end to the Israeli occupation" of the southern rim of the country, and "the departure of Syrian forces" from the central region. Some 35,000 Syrian troops are now deployed on Lebanese territory, while the Israeli army operates with impunity across the southern border.
Pope John Paul will arrive in Beirut on May 10 just after noon, to be greeted
by the country's current political leadership at the presidential palace early in the afternoon. He will then travel by helicopter to Bkerke to meet with Patriarch Sfeir, then continue to Harissa to meet the apostolic nuncio and take part in a meeting with young people, followed by the formal promulgation of his apostolic exhortation.
On May 11, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass at a naval base in Beirut, and
after leading the congregation in the Regina Caeli, will return to Bkerke for a meeting with the bishops of Lebanon. After another meeting with ecumenical leadership there, he will head back for the Beirut airport and his
return flight to Rome.