Catholics' Role Key in Mideast Peace, Says Nuncio

Christians Must Stay in Region, Contends Prelate

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KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, SEPT. 20, 2005 ( The Catholic Church holds the key to resolving conflict in the Middle East, says the new apostolic nuncio to the Persian Gulf.

Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, whose nunciature will cover Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen and Qatar, told the Germany-based charity Aid to the Church in Need: «I believe that the Catholic Church in Lebanon and in the whole world is now called to play the role of mediator between Orient and Occident.»

The archbishop’s nunciature lies at the heart of the strife-torn Mideast, and he called on the Church to take on the mantle of peacemaker in the area.

The 71-year-old nuncio, who served for 10 years as the Maronite bishop of Baalbek-Deir El-Ahmar in Lebanon, said that the Maronite episcopate had been staunch supporters of Pope John Paul II’s denouncement of the Iraq war.

Despite the pressures that are driving many Christians out of the Mideast, Archbishop El-Hachem maintained that Christianity must be preserved in the region.

«Something would be missing in the Middle East without the religion of love, reconciliation and forgiveness,» he said.

The nuncio also prayed for peace between Palestine and Israel. With up to 700,000 Palestinians gathered in camps within its borders, Lebanon «is immediately interested in a peaceful solution» to the long-standing conflict, he said.

«Lebanon hopes that the evacuation of Gaza will be the beginning of a true solution,» he added.

The Maronite Church has had a presence in Lebanon since the seventh century, and now represents about a quarter of the country’s population.

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