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The Pope's Lebanon trip is still on, despite security fears

Syria's deadly civil war has spilled over the border into Tripoli, just 85 km from Beirut, but the Vatican insists the Papal visit will go ahead.

  • Andrea Tornielli
  • Vatican City
  • August 27, 2012
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Despite the clashes and disorder that have been going on in recent days in Tripoli, north west of the country, preparations for Benedict XVI’s trip to Lebanon are going ahead at full speed: the Pope and his collaborators are working on the speeches to be pronounced and on the post-Synodal exhortation text which is the fruit of the Synod for the Middle East in 2010. This will be signed and delivered to Middle Eastern Churches in Lebanon.

Lebanon has every right to be part of the Holy Land: Matthew the Apostle sets the journey undertaken by Jesus and his disciples’ in the Tyre and Sidon region and writes about the episode of the Canaanite woman who asks for her possessed daughter to be healed. It is a country where the century-long Christian presence has been a determining factor.

Newspapers recently reported alarming rumours about security in Lebanon, suggesting that the papal pilgrimage could be postponed at the last minute. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi immediately denied the rumour, informing the public that Benedict XVI’s Popemobile has already arrived in Beirut.

Yesterday, Paolo Dell’Oglio - the Jesuit who had to leave the Monastery of St. Moses in Syria after 30 years of hard work promoting dialogue between Muslims and Christians – also spoke of the risks of the Pope’s visit. According to Fr. Dell’Oglio, the risk is posed by the close links between the current Lebanese government and the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

It is true that diplomatic sources are not excluding the possibility of a postponement, should the situation in Syria worsen even further. They recall what happened in 1994 when John Paul II was forced to cancel a scheduled visit to Beirut because of a series of attacks against Christian churches. But the situation was different back then. The pilgrimage was postponed - until May 1997 - partly because of existing tensions between Christians.

“At the moment there are no plans to postpone the visit,” Vatican sources say. “The Pope is keen to visit this country which has suffered and is still suffering; a delicate and problematic part of the world where Christians were and still are a constituent element and where they have traditionally always been present.”

Full Story: Lebanon: The hopes and uncertainties surrounding Benedict’s visit

Source: La Stampa/Vatican Insider
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