» 09/14/2012, 00.00
SYRIA - LEBANON - VATICAN
Nuncio in Damascus: Benedict XVI a beacon for the Middle East
Archbishop Mario Zenari hopes that the Pope's visit to Lebanon will encourage the international community, Syrian army and rebels to pursue the path of dialogue. The prayer of the Syrian Christians. But no Syrian bishop will be in Beirut. Situation in Aleppo and in the suburbs of Damascus increasingly dramatic.
Damascus (AsiaNews) - "The Pope's
trip to Lebanon will be a
beacon for the entire Middle East, especially
for the Christians of Syria. I hope that the presence of the Pope encourages
the international community to help both parties in conflict to lay down their
arms and come to the negotiating table to end the carnage. " This is the
hope of Msgr. Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, a few hours ahead of the
visit of Benedict XVI to Lebanon, which begins today and ends September 16.
"The Pope - says Zenari - has been closely following the situation in Syria for
months and has never ceased to raise his voice in public meetings. He knows what
the Syrian Christians and their bishops want, who for more than a year trying
to witness to peace in the country bent by sectarian and ethnic hatred. "
The Nuncio said that given the critical conditions in the country, most of the
population are unaware of the visit, given poor access to newspapers and
television. However, parishes and dioceses are doing everything possible to call
the faithful to this important event. "The situation in Aleppo
and Damascus in
some areas is dramatic - says the prelate - there is fighting between rebels
and the army in every corner of the country." The insecurity of roads and airports,
used by Assad as to launch his warplanes and targeted by Free Syrian Army artillery,
means the Syrian bishops cannot travel to greet the pontiff. "The bishops
of Aleppo -
says Zenari - sent a letter of welcome, where they explain their situation. But
they will be there in prayer."
The apostolic visit to Lebanon
will be the occasion for the signing and publication of the Post-Synodal
Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle
East of the Synod of Bishops. The first stage starts today at
13.45 with arrival at the airport and the speech before the authorities. At
18.00 the Pope will visit the Basilica of St Paul in Harissa to sign the
Apostolic Exhortation. Tomorrow morning the presidential palace in Baabda,
Benedict XVI will meet the main political authorities, including President
Michel Suleiman and representatives of the Muslim religious community. The
pontiff will dine with the Christian patriarchs of Lebanon. In the evening there will
be the long-awaited meeting with young people in the square in front of the
Maronite Patriarchate of Bkerké. On September 16, the final day of the visit,
in the morning the Pope will celebrate Mass for the delivery of the Apostolic
Exhortation. In the afternoon there will be an ecumenical meeting in the Syrian
Catholic Patriarchate of Charfet, before leaving for the airport scheduled for 19.00
hours local time.
The pope's visit to Lebanon
is on the same days of the visit to Syria by Lakhdar Brahimi, UN and
the Arab League Special Envoy. After the failure of his predecessor Kofi Annan,
Brahimi represents one of the last chances of finding a diplomatic solution to
the conflict involving all parties involved.
Born of the March 2011 protests during the Arab Spring, the Syrian crisis has left
more than 20 thousand dead and hundreds of thousands of displaced people, of
which over 120 thousand have crossed the borders and found hospitality in refugee
camps set up by governments and international organizations in Turkey, Jordan and
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