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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs