Pope Benedict arrives in Lebanon as ‘pilgrim of peace’

Pope Benedict arrives in Lebanon as ‘pilgrim of peace’

BEIRUT (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Lebanon Sept. 14, saying that he came “as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men.”

In his remarks at a welcoming ceremony at Beirut’s airport, Pope Benedict praised Lebanon, with a mixed population of Christians and Muslims, for its distinctive record of “coexistence and respectful dialogue.” But speaking in a country that was devastated by a civil war from 1975 to 1990, the pope acknowledged that Lebanese society’s “equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate. Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures,” he said.

The pope said Lebanon’s social equilibrium “should be sought with insistence, preserved at all costs and consolidated with determination.”

Earlier in the day, speaking to reporters on the plane from Rome, Pope Benedict addressed some of the turbulence currently affecting the rest of the Middle East. He praised the so-called Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave that started in December 2010, leading to the fall of dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and currently threatening the government of Syria, just across the border from Lebanon.

The pope said the movement represented positive aspirations for democracy and liberty and hence a “renewed Arab identity.” But he warned against the danger of forgetting that “human liberty is always a shared reality,” and consequently failing to protect the rights of Christian minorities in Muslim countries.

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