Beirut (AsiaNews) - "The Virgin Mary, venerated with devotion and tenderness by the faithful of the religious confessions here present, is a sure model for going forward in hope along the path of a lived and authentic brotherhood. Lebanon understood this well when, some time ago, she proclaimed 25 March as a holiday, thus allowing everyone to live more deeply their unity in serenity. May the Virgin Mary, whose ancient shrines are so numerous in your country, continue to accompany and inspire you!" Benedict XVI ended his last speech in Lebanon with this invocation to Our Lady on behalf of all Lebanese, Christians and Muslims.
The pontiff said goodbye to President Michel Sleiman and other civil authorities, thanking them for their role in the visit's organisation. He also thanked the representatives of the region's Catholic Churches for welcoming him "as if Peter himself had come to you". Likewise, he did the same with the representatives of the Orthodox and Protestant Churches.
He had a special farewell message for Muslims, for the "warmth and your affection" with which they welcomed him, and which he "compared to one of those renowned oriental spices which enriches the taste of food." Such "warmth and your affection [. . .] make me wish to return" to Lebanon.
For Benedict XVI, the country and Christian-Muslim coexistence are an even more urgent message for the international community. "In these troubled times, the Arab world and indeed the entire world will have seen Christians and Muslims united in celebrating peace."
For the pontiff, the Bible best illustrates this unity. Indeed, when King Solomon planned to build the temple in Jerusalem, he called upon a Lebanese, Hiram of Tyre, to send cedar wood and furnishings, with garlands of sculpted flowers (cf 1 Kg 5:22; Kg 6:18).
"Lebanon," Benedict XVI said, "was present in the sanctuary of God. May the Lebanon of today, and her inhabitants, also dwell in the sanctuary of God! May Lebanon continue to be a place where men and women can live in harmony and peace with each other, in order to give the world not only a witness to the presence of God, the primary theme of this past Synod, but also a witness to the communion between people, the second theme of the Synod, whatever their political, social, or religious standpoint."
"I pray to God for Lebanon," the Holy Father noted, "that she may live in peace and courageously resist all that could destroy or undermine that peace. I hope that Lebanon will continue to permit the plurality of religious traditions and not listen to the voices of those who wish to prevent it. I hope that Lebanon will fortify the communion among all her inhabitants, whatever their community or religion, that she will resolutely reject all that could lead to disunity, and with determination choose brotherhood. These are blossoms pleasing to God, virtues that are possible and that merit consolidation by becoming more deeply rooted."
In concluding, he added, "May God bless Lebanon and all the Lebanese! May he never cease to draw them to himself so as to offer them a share in his eternal life! May he fill them with his joy, his peace and his light! May God bless all the Middle East! Upon all of you, I affectionately invoke abundant divine blessings. « لِيُبَارِك الربُّ جميعَكُم » - God bless you all!"