Pope Wants Special Role for Lebanon

Hopes It Can be Laboratory of Peace

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says he hopes Lebanon can be a place where effective solutions are found for the conflicts in the Middle East.

The Pope said this today when he received in audience the new Lebanese ambassador to the Holy See, Georges Chakib El Khoury.

The Holy Father noted that Lebanon is a place of ancient coexistence between religions and communities and he urged the nation to cling to this heritage, becoming “a laboratory where effective solutions are found to the conflicts of the Middle East.”

Lebanon “is the cradle of an ancient culture that spread throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, as well as being a country of numerous religious confessions that demonstrated they could live together in fraternity and collaboration,” he said.

The Pontiff also encouraged efforts being made to make peace within Lebanon more solid. He particularly noted the work being done by the country’s new president, Michel Sleiman, who visited the Pope in the Vatican on Oct. 31.

Returning to an idea he emphasized with Sleiman, Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the Lebanese, “by putting special interests aside and healing the wounds of the past, will be committed to the path of dialogue and reconciliation, to allow the country to go forward in stability.”

“The fundamental attitude that should guide everyone in this commitment to the service of the common good must continue without fail,” he said. “Every group of Lebanese must feel truly at home in Lebanon and see that their legitimate concerns and expectations are addressed effectively, in mutual respect of the rights of others.

“As my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II wrote: We must never forget that a gesture of peace can disarm the adversary, and often leads the latter to respond positively to a stretched out hand, because peace, the good par excellence, tends to multiply itself.”

Lebanon’s some 4 million inhabitants are about 60% Muslim and 39% Christian.

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