By Kira Kalinina
Pope Benedict XVI will visit Lebanon from 14th to 16th of September despite the unstable situation in the country. In Beirut the Pope will meet the leaders of all Catholic Churches in the Middle East and North Africa as well as with the politicians and followers of Islam. Christians are hoping that the pontifix will promote values of unity in the region.
Dr. Harry Hagopian, a Middle East consultant at the conference of Catholic Bishops in England and Wales, spoke about many levels of importance of this visit.
“I think that the importance of this visit lies in the fact that Pope Benedict XVI is coming to Lebanon in order to meet the heads of all the Catholic Churches not only in Lebanon but all in the region in order to give them what is known as the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. This is the document that follows on the general synod of all the Catholic Churches of the region that took place in Rome. The document shares the thoughts and hopes of the Pope in the aspect of what is happening in Christianity in Middle East and North Africa so far. This is an important, pretty much formal specific point of the visit. In my opinion it is a way to show solidarity with the Christians of the region, which has an approximately 10-12% of native Arab Christians. Also he is planning to meet with politicians in Lebanon and with Muslim leaders from Sunni, Shia, Druze and other denominations.”
In an exclusive interview to the Voice of Russia Father Abdo Abu Kassem from Lebanon spoke about the Christian communities of his country. There are 18 Christian communities in Lebanon making it a symbolic choice for the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, says Father Kassem.
“This is a visit for peace. Christians are not an ordinary minority, they have been here for two thousand years. The majority of Christians of the Middle East live in Lebanon. That is why Benedict XVI wants to speak to Lebanese Christians and through them to all the Christians of the Middle East. Christians hope that this visit will give them hope to continue their mission in Lebanon and in all the Middle East.”
Due to unstable situation in the region there were rumors that the visit will be cancelled. But despite those rumors the Vatican remained adamant and Lebanon is actively preparing for the Pope’s visit. Dr. Hagopian approves of the decision to visit the region.
“Lebanon is facing many challenges of the civil war that is taking place in Syria next door. And this conflict inevitably has an effect on Lebanon and on the different Lebanese political and religious hopes and thoughts. In this context I have been involved in talks with the Catholic Church officials to gage whether it is a good idea for Pope to come to Lebanon or not. I decided that Pope’s visit and solidarity with the people of the region is more important. I hope that by coming he will be able to bring a message of hope to the whole region particularly since the Catholic Church has always described Lebanon as a message of hope.”
In either case the Popemobile is already on its way to Lebanon, all the speeches are written, and meetings are agreed upon.