04/04/2005, 00.00
SYRIA - VATICAN

Assad will attend Pope's funeral

by Jihad Issa
People wave photos of the Pope, whilst national media remembers his moral stature and historic 2001 visit.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – An official Syrian government statement released today said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will attend Pope John Paul II's funeral, which is scheduled for Thursday. He will head an official delegation whose members have not yet been named.

Sorrow for the loss of John Paul II is palpable everywhere: in Catholic churches crowded with the faithful saying prayers for the soul of the Pontiff, but also in the streets plastered with photos of the Pope, especially the one that shows John Paul II planting a tree in the Golan and another in which he is kissing the Qu'ran in his visit to a mosque in Damascus in 2001.

Like the streets, the Pontiff is all over the front-pages of newspapers: Teschrine, a Damascus daily, carried a photo on its front-page of John Paul II in the Golan valley whilst an editorial focused on the Pontiff's strong religious charisma and his constant efforts in favour of world peace; Al-Sawrat led today's edition with the Pope's historic 2001 visit and its most significant moment, his visit to al-Qunaytirah, a city in the Golan destroyed in 1967 War with Israel.

Syrian media have also generally emphasised the role played by the Holy See in the Arab world and its efforts in favour of inter-faith dialogue and bridging the gap between Islam and Christianity.

Pope John Paul II's condemnations of the two Iraq wars and his repeated appeals for peace were given wide coverage.

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