Benedict XVI Leaves Lebanon With Wish to Visit Again

Says Trip Gave World a Chance to See Muslims, Christians United in Celebrating Peace

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BEIRUT, Lebanon, SEPT. 16, 2012 ( Benedict XVI wrapped up his three-day trip to Lebanon this afternoon, offering a final word of thanks to his hosts by comparing their warmth and affection to «one of those renowned oriental spices,» and saying that he has hopes to return.

The Pope’s Friday to Sunday visit included meetings with political and religious leaders, as well as a vast crowd of young people. The main purpose of the trip was to sign and present his postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the Middle East, fruit of the 2010 synod.

And though there were some who expressed fear for the Holy Father’s safety, he told journalists on the plane en route to Lebanon that he had never considered canceling the journey.

As he took his leave today at the airport, it seemed his courage had borne fruit. «In these troubled times,» he reflected, «the Arab world and indeed the entire world will have seen Christians and Muslims united in celebrating peace.»

He thanked the Muslims who participated in the visit for helping to make it a success.

The Pontiff reiterated again the special role that Lebanon has in the Middle East, with its testimony that it is possible for followers of distinct religions to live together in peace.

«In his wisdom, Solomon asked Hiram of Tyre to build a house for the name of God, a sanctuary for all eternity (cf. Sir 47:13). And Hiram, whom I mentioned at my arrival, sent wood taken from the cedars of Lebanon (cf. 1 Kg 5:22). Cedar furnishings adorned the interior of the Temple, with garlands of sculpted flowers (cf. 1 Kg 6:18). Lebanon was present in the sanctuary of God. May the Lebanon of today, and her inhabitants, also dwell in the sanctuary of God! May Lebanon continue to be a place where men and women can live in harmony and peace with each other, in order to give the world not only a witness to the presence of God, the primary theme of this past Synod, but also a witness to the communion between people, the second theme of the Synod, whatever their political, social, or religious standpoint.»

The Pope urged Lebanon to continue in this line: «I hope that Lebanon will fortify the communion among all her inhabitants, whatever their community or religion, that she will resolutely reject all that could lead to disunity, and with determination choose brotherhood. These are blossoms pleasing to God, virtues that are possible and that merit consolidation by becoming more deeply rooted.»

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