ROME, AUG. 8, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In just over a month, Benedict XVI will embark on his apostolic visit to Lebanon, scheduled for Sept. 14-16. The primary purpose of the visit is the signing of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, fruit of the 2010 synod on the Middle East.
The papal visit has been greatly anticipated not only in Lebanon but in the whole Christian community of the region. In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti, Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad spoke on how the Church in Iraq views this trip.
Despite difficulties and troublesome circumstances in the Middle East, Bishop Warduni said that the Church in Iraq is awaiting the papal visit to Lebanon with “great hope.”
“It is the visit of a father who loves his children, who feel his concern for them, wherever and whatever the circumstance,” he said. “We in Iraq also await this apostolic exhortation with love and great hope. There are still so many difficulties, especially in regard to security. We hope that this visit will bring much consolation, much courage and much support.”
The Iraqi prelate said that a fundamental aspect of the Holy Father’s visit is the importance of dialogue between Christians and Muslims in the region. Benedict XVI is expected to meet not only Christians, but with members of the Muslim community. As witnesses of the Gospel, Bishop Warduni said, Christians must always seek “to be close to our brothers, seeking to have it understood that religion should bring souls closer, to make it understood that God’s Spirit is present everywhere.”
“If we don’t respect one another, if we don’t try to help one another, being reconciled all together, it will be very difficult to go forward in these circumstances – with the war – because the love of God and love of brothers is not understood,” he reflected.
When asked if the Iraqi Christian community felt a closeness to the Pope, amidst the difficulties that have forced many to flee, the auxiliary bishop of Iraq reiterated the Holy Father’s message of loving their land and attaching themselves to the faith.
“This is the hour of hope, great and strong,” Bishop Warduni said, “so that all will return to their homes: there they will really find their happiness. We hope that all will be able to live in peace and security!”