VATICAN CITY, FEB. 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- On Thursday Benedict XVI received in audience Michel Suleiman, president of Lebanon.
A Vatican communiqué reported that after meeting with the Pope, the president met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pontiff’s secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.
The discussions highlighted the role of Lebanon, which, “because of the presence of various Christian and Muslim communities there, stands as a message of freedom and respectful coexistence, not only for the region but for the whole world.”
“In this context,” the communiqué stated, “it is increasingly necessary to promote collaboration and dialogue between religious confessions.”
The president also spoke with the Holy Father and prelates about “the importance of civil and religious authorities being committed to educating consciences in peace and reconciliation.”
The hope was expressed “that the formation of the new government may favor the desired stability of the nation, which is called to face important internal and international challenges,” the Vatican noted.
It added that the discussion addressed the situation in the Middle East, “with particular reference to recent events in certain Arab states, with the parties expressing their shared conviction that it is vital to resolve the ongoing conflicts in the region.”
The communiqué concluded by reporting that “particular attention was given to the delicate situation of Christians in the entire region, and to the contribution they can make for the good of society as a whole.”
In Lebanon, a plurality of religions and rites live in harmony, especially since the constitution of May 23, 1926 and the national pact of 1943 established an associate regime or a parliamentary democracy.
The national pact sanctioned a subdivision of the public offices according to religious membership: The president must be a Maronite Christian. He remains in office for six years and shares executive power with the council of ministers, presided over by a Muslim of the Sunni confession.
In particular, article 9 of the constitution states that “liberty of conscience is absolute” and that “the state, rendering homage to the Most High, guarantees in equal measure to the populations, no matter what rite they belong to, respect of their personal status and of their religious interests.”
On Tuesday, during a lunch given by the “Maronite Institution of the Diaspora” in Rome, on the occasion of the inauguration of a statue of St. Marone in St. Peter’s Basilica, President Suleiman asserted that the fate of Christians in the various countries is not linked “to the principle of personal or external defense, and not even to the capacity to gather the elements of physical and material strength, or to the effort on the other hand to withdraw into itself or to isolate itself.”
The way out, he indicated, is “in succeeding to become part of movements and regimes born from illumined thought, in the heart of a just nation, able to protect public liberty and to fight against terrorism and corruption seeking the common good on the basis of national equality.”
Moreover, he added, “it is the duty of all confessions, Christian in particular, in this problematic time, to undertake an effort of reconciliation among all the religions and confessions, stressing the points in common among them, far from the “game of politics of nations’ and especially removed from the political line-ups that make every effort in an attempt to support a part of the population to the detriment of the other.”
On the international plane, Suleiman stressed that “Lebanon has taken to heart the ‘Palestinian cause’ and all the concerns of the Arabs in the confrontations of Israeli incursion and occupation.”
To this end, he added that “during the Beirut summit of the year 2002, the country supported the Arab initiative for peace, for the search of a just and integral solution regarding all the aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, preserving its legal right to defend its own territory and to liberate it with all licit and available means.”
“One of the most important points of this initiative,” the president said, “is the refusal to include Palestinian refugees in Arab countries because, as in the case of Lebanon, their condition would not permit such settlement.”