MAY 10-11 1997

1- I COME AS A FRIEND - Lebanon should take her full place in the community of nations: Today, with great emotion, I have kissed the soil of lebanon, as a sign of friendship and respect. I come among you, dear lebanese people, as a friend who wishes to visit a people and support them in their daily journey. It is as a friend of lebanon that I come to encourage the sons and daughters of this land of hospitality, this country of ancient spiritual and cultural traditions, so desirous of independence and freedom. On the threshold of the third millennium, lebanon, while preserving her particular treasures and rermaining faithful to herself, must be able to embrace the new realities of modern society and to take her full place in the community of nations. On numerous occasions, from the beginning of my Pontificate, I have urged the international community to help the lebanese people once again to live peacefully within a national territory recognized and respected by all, and to foster the rebuilding of a society of justice and brotherhood. From a human standpoint, many people died in vain as a result of the fighting. Families were displaced. Some lebanese were forced into exile far from their native land. People of different cultures and religions who had been living on friendly terms and as good neighbours found themselves separated, even bitterly opposed. That period, which has happily come to an end, is still present in everyone's memory and has left many scars on people's hearts. Nonetheless, Lebanon is called to look resolutely to the future, a future freely dteremined by the choice of its people. (At International Airport, upon arrival on may 10th)

2-LEBANON HAS SHOWED that different faiths can coexist we wish to declare before the world the importance of Lebanon, its historical mission, accomplished down the centuries: a country of many religious faiths, Lebanon has shown that these different faiths can live together in peace, brotherhood and cooperation; it has shown that people can respect the rights of every individual to religious freedom, that all are united in love for this homeland which has matured over the centuijes, preserving the spiritual heritage of their forbears, notably of the monk St Maron. (During Mas at the martyrsls square in Beirut, May 11, 1997)

3-LEBANON IS A HOLY LAND We are here in the region where the feet of Chnst, the Saviour of the world, trod 2,000 years ago. The Holy Scriptures teach us that Jesus went to preach beyond the borders of the Palestine of that time, that he visited also the territory of the ten cities of the Decapolis - Tyre and Sidon in particular -and that he worked miracles there. The Son of God himself was the first to preach the Good News to your ancestors. This is an extraordinary privilege. Speaking of Tyre and Sidon, I cannot forget to mention the great sufferings experienced by their peoples. Today I ask Jesus to put an end to these sufferings and implore from him just and lasting peace in the Middle East with respect for everyone's rights and aspirations. (During Mas at the martyrsls square in Beirut, May 11, 1997)

4- CONTINUE on the path of Peace Lebanese remained faithful to their land and their heritage through many travails, and they continue to show the same fidelity today. I urge them to continue in this direction by giving an exarnp]e of harmony between the cultures and religions, in a society where all the people and different communities are considered equals. Develop a new social order on essential moral values and with the concern to guarantee indivisuals and human groups their essential place in national life and community decisions: this attention to man, which belongs naturally to the Lebanese soul, will bring peace to the country and to the region. I urge national leaders to respect international law, especially in the Middle East, so that the sovereignty, legitimate autonomy and security of States will be guaranteed and the law and understandable aspirations of peoples respected In ackowledging the efforts of the international community in the region, I hope that the process of seeking a just and lasting peace, will continue to be upheld with determination, courage and consistency. I also hope that efforts will be pursued and intensified for supporting the country's growth and the advance of the Lebanese towards an ever more democratic society, with the total independence of its institutions and recognition of its borders, indespensable conditions if its integrity is to be guaranteed. (At Airport on May 11th)