Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In his first public appearance after the week of Lenten spiritual exercises in the Vatican, Benedict XVI launched an appeal and a prayer for Lebanon, where since last November the parliament has not been able to meet to vote for the new president. The formal obstacles come above all from the pro-Syrian parties and from the Shiite group Hezbollah, but there have also been assassinations of parliamentarians and car bombs that have fostered fear and intransigence.
"I follow with concern", the pontiff said, "the persistent manifestations of tension in Lebanon. For almost three months, the country has been unable to choose a head of state. The efforts to resolve the crisis and the support offered by many prominent representatives of the international community, even if they have not yet obtained a result, demonstrate the intention to identify a president who would be such for all Lebanese, and thus lay the foundation for overcoming existing divisions. Unfortunately, there is also no lack of reasons for concern, above all because of unusual verbal violence, or even because of those who put their trust in weapons and in the physical elimination of their adversaries.
"Together with the Maronite patriarch and all the Lebanese bishops", the pope continued, "I ask you to unite yourselves with my prayer to Our Lady of Lebanon, that she might encourage the citizens of that dear nation, and in particular the politicians, to continue tenaciously in favour of reconciliation, truly sincere dialogue, peaceful coexistence, and the good of a homeland profoundly felt as a common one".
There were at least 30,000 faithful present for the Angelus in Saint Peter's Square. With them, the pontiff commented on the Gospel of the day, the second Sunday of Lent, which recounts the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. "The mountain", Mount Tabor just as Mount Sinai, the pope explained, "is the place of closeness to God. It is an elevated space, in comparison with daily existence, where one breathes the pure air of creation. It is the place of prayer, where one can be in the presence of the Lord, like Moses and Elijah, who appear beside the transfigured Jesus and speak with Him of the 'exodus' that awaits him in Jerusalem, meaning his Passover. The Transfiguration is an event of prayer: by praying, Jesus immerses himself in God, unites himself intimately with Him, and adheres with his own human will to the Father's will of love".
"The Transfiguration", he continued, "is an anticipation of the resurrection, but this presupposes death. Jesus manifests his glory to the apostles, so that they might have the strength to face the scandal of the cross, and understand that one needs to pass through many tribulations to reach the Kingdom of God. The voice of the Father, which resounds from on high, proclaims Jesus as his well-beloved Son, as at the baptism in the Jordan, adding: 'Listen to him' (Mt 17:5). In order to enter into eternal life, one must listen to Jesus and follow Him on the way of the cross, carrying the hope of the resurrection in one's heart as He did. 'Spe salvi', saved in hope. Today we could say: 'Transfigured in hope'".
At the end, after the greetings in the various languages, Benedict XVI acknowledged and promised his prayers for the family members of the Italians who have disappeared in Venezuela, following an airplane crash that occurred on January 4.