News / Middle East

    Pope Benedict on 3-Day Tour of Lebanon

    Pope Benedict XVI waves upon his arrival at Beirut international airport as he is welcomed by Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman, September 14, 2012.
    Pope Benedict XVI waves upon his arrival at Beirut international airport as he is welcomed by Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman, September 14, 2012.
    Paige Kollock
    Pope Benedict has arrived in Lebanon on a three-day visit aimed at promoting peace in this turbulent nation bordering both Syria and Israel. He is the first pope to travel to Beirut in 15 years, and his trip comes at a time of rising tensions among Christians in many parts of the Middle East.
     
    Hundreds of people and heavy security greeted the pope's arrival at the capital's Rafik Hariri international airport. He asked for prayers and efforts to deepen the dialogue between Christians and what he called “followers of other religions.”
     
    Lebanon has been preparing for the papal visit for months. Main highways are decorated with Vatican flags and billboards welcoming the pope.

    Christians like Nabil Braidy are celebrating what they call a momentous occasion. "The pope’s visit is important, and it’s kind of a victory for Christians as well as Muslims," said Braidy.

    Pascal Sakr, another Lebanese Christian, hopes the pope's visit will promote peace. It’s good to have this visit now, at this moment, because of the situation in the region. This visit will give us support and peace for Lebanon and the Orient,” Sakr stated.
     
    This is a turbulent time for Christians in this part of the Middle East. Lebanon is undergoing a period of relative peace after years of civil war, and Christians say they feel secure here, but they are concerned about spillover from the civil war in Syria, which has had a powerful influence on Lebanon for decades.

    More than 1,330 Syrian Christian refugees have fled to Lebanon, says Archbishop Issam John Darwich of Zahle, a Christian stronghold.

    “We are really afraid that the same event that’s happening in Syria will happen in Lebanon, and everywhere in the Arabic country," he said.
     
    Still, Lebanese Christians are divided politically over the conflict in Syria. Amin Ammourieh, a columnist with the An Nahar newspaper, says some of this derives from political divisions here between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.

    “Most of the Sunnah [Sunnis] are against the Syrian government and most of the Shias are with the Syrian government, so the Sunnah are united, the Shias are united, but the Christians are divided," he explained. "And that is the reason why they are weak in politics.”
     
    There are an estimated 13 million Catholics in the Middle East. Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, says the pope will work toward allaying their concerns about rising Islamic fundamentalism, and plead with them not to flee their homelands.

    “The Christians have always played a key seminal role in this culture, in this civilization from the time of the advent of Islam in the seventh century onward," Salem stated. "They are part of this history, this civilization. They should not alienate themselves from it.”
     
    The 85-year-old pontiff will meet with Muslim leaders and politicians and also visit the pilgrimage site of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa. His visit will conclude Sunday after a public Mass near the Beirut waterfront.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Expedito from: Kampala(Uganda0
    September 15, 2012 10:27 AM
    Its great that His Holliness the pope is reaching out to solve issues that may incite global violence and my humble appeal to brothers and sisters in Lebanon is to accept the resolutions made so as peace prevails.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora