ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
Pontiff Makes Special Appeal for Lebanon
Echoes Fears Expressed by Maronites
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Concerned about Lebanon and all
the Mideast, Benedict XVI appealed to the faithful to pray for the convulsed
region and he called on national and international authorities to exercise
"I follow with heartfelt concern all that is happening in the Middle East,
where the possibilities for a solution to the crisis besetting the region
alternate with tensions and difficulties that cause fears of new violence,"
the Pope told the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square today to pray the
"Lebanon deserves a special mention, on whose soil, today as yesterday, men
who are different on the cultural and religious plane, are called to live
together to build a nation of dialogue and coexistence, and to favor the
common good," the Holy Father said.
He continued: "That is why, in the face of recent events, I share the strong
fears expressed by the patriarch, His Beatitude the Lord Cardinal Nasrallah
Boutros Sfeir, and by the Maronite bishops in the communiqué they
published last Wednesday."
"Together with them, I appeal to the Lebanese and to their political leaders
to be interested exclusively in the good of the country and harmony between
its communities, inspiring their commitment in that unity that is the responsibility
of one and all, and that requires patient and persevering efforts, along
with confident and permanent dialogue."
Benedict XVI added his hope that "the international community will help to
identify urgent, peaceful and just solutions, necessary for Lebanon and for
the whole Middle East" and invited all to pray "in this grave moment."
In a message read during the funeral service of 34-year-old Maronite Christian
Pierre Gemayel, the Lebanese minister of industry, slain in Beirut on Nov.
21, Benedict XVI called for an "autonomous and increasingly fraternal" Lebanon,
and lamented that "unspeakable act."
During the General Audience of Nov. 22, the Pope said: "In the face of the
dark forces that are seeking to destroy the country, I invite all Lebanese
not to allow themselves to be conquered by hatred but rather to strengthen
their national unity, justice and reconciliation, and to work together to
build a future of peace."
Political tensions continue in the country and, as Vatican Radio alerted
last Thursday, the pro-Syrian and Hezbollah opposition, which recently took
to the streets, had called for a new protest in Beirut against the government
of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. The latter is supported by the West and
by moderate Arab countries.
In this context, the Maronite prelates launched a new appeal on Wednesday
for the country's pacification.
"We see no other solution than to turn to the constitutional institutions,
and by the latter we understand Parliament, which must resolve the government
crisis," Bishop Bechara Rai of Byblos of the Maronites said Thursday on Vatican
"We cannot let protests in the streets resolve our problems," he said. "We
must act through institutions. This has been the appeal. Demonstrations serve
to express opinions; in a democratic environment, however, solutions must
be found through institutions."
"We have a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, because of the repercussion
of the conflict in Iraq," the prelate added. "Therefore, we have launched
this appeal, because if the protests continue there is a danger of a clash
between Sunnis and Shiites."