Beirut (AsiaNews) The Lebanese, Christians and Muslims alike, are momentarily putting aside their own troubles to pray for the Pope, most of them concerned about the deteriorating health of the Holy Father.
Beloved by John Paul II, Lebanon, like its neighbours, is praying for the dying Pontiff. Clergymen in the Christian communities are urging the faithful to fast and pray for him.
The national press have devoted pages upon pages to cover John Paul II's fate.
Mgr Paul Matar, Maronite Archbishop of Beirut who organised the Pope's 1997 visit to Lebanon, spoke to AsiaNews about this 'visceral' link between the Pontiff and the Cedars' land.
"John Paul II felt close to our country and its people before and after his trip," he said. "More than once he said that Lebanon was more than a state; it was a message", a message that people of different ethnic and religious background can live together.
According to the Archbishop, "the Holy Father will not be forgotten in the history of Lebanon and of the Lebanese and his imagine shall remain engraved in the memories of adults as well as children". He also invited the faithful to take part in the mass he will celebrate this afternoon in Beirut's St George's Cathedral.
The President of the National Assembly, Nabih Berri praised the Pope calling him a "messenger of peace among the nations". Berri, who is a Shiite Muslim, urged everyone to pray and call on the all-mighty God to help the Pope. "John Paul II, who walked on the Lebanese land, was a man of the 20th century who began the 21st.
Before leaving for Rome, Sarkis Sarkis, a Maronite who is running in Metn in the upcoming parliamentary elections, also urged his compatriots to pray for the Pope. "With John Paul II gone," he said, "Lebanon will lose a great friend and a defender of its rights".
The Pope's worsening health situation has allowed the Lebanese to momentarily put aside their own serious troubles, especially now that another blast occurred in the Christian village of Broumana (20 km east of Beirut), injuring five people and causing considerable material damage. (YH)