05/20/2014, 00.00
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John Paul II continues to unite the Lebanese nation around his "message of tolerance and pluralism"

by Fady Noun
An interfaith meeting saw religious leaders from the country's Christian and Muslim communities reiterate "the spiritual solidarity" that binds them. Lebanon should continue to be a "model of unity in diversity within the Arab world". Patriarch Rahi hopes to see a new president elected "before the end of the week."

Beirut (AsiaNews) - At the initiative of the Lazarite Fathers in Lebanon and the Adyan Foundation, an association close to Maronite Patriarchate, an interfaith meeting was held Monday around a relic of John Paul II, at Bkerké, the Maronite Patriarchal See.

"John Paul II and his message for Lebanon" brought together around a relic of the new saint many of Lebanon's Christian and Muslim religious leaders, some in person, others through their representatives.

President Michel Sleiman, whose term in office is about to end, backed the event in which speeches alternated with hymns performed by the Interfaith Children's Choir of Hammana, organised by Adyan.

Inspired by the spirit of the Assisi interfaith meeting of 1986, yesterday's event gave Muslim and Christian religious leaders an opportunity to reaffirm, beyond the platitudes, the "spiritual solidarity" that binds them in a country called Lebanon, one that John Paul II called once and for all "more than a country, a message of tolerance and pluralism for East and West."

The meeting, which began last Friday, ended with a visit to the relics of John Paul II. Embedded in a statue that depicts the great pope, the relic holds a vial containing blood collected before the pope's death, as part of a blood test.

(Sunni) Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, (Shia) Ja'fari Mufti Ahmad Kabalan, Druze Sheikh Akl Naim Hassan, (Evangelical) Rev Habib Badr, Lazarite Provincial Jacques Haddad, Mgr Kayyal for the Orthodox patriarch, Yuhanna X Yazigi for the Syriac Orthodox patriarch and Apostolic Nuncio Gabriele Caccia all spoke at the event.

The various speakers went at great lengths to reiterate the point that Lebanon owes a great deal to the tireless efforts deployed by John Paul II to save the country from disappearance and must preserve its historical vocation.

The mufti mentioned the memory of a man who was "always alive" in the minds of Lebanese, who "kept Lebanon in his soul, his mind and heart," even during the darkest days of discord and war, "who visited us (1997) after making sure that our confrontations were over."

"Lebanon has no value without a culture of true partnership among its communities, respectful of rights, including the right to religious freedom," he said, referring explicitly to the Apostolic Exhortation 'hope for Lebanon' (1997) published after the Special Synod held in Lebanon in 1995.

As the cleric talked about the exhortation, its relevant was ever clearer. In view of this, the Mufti of Lebanon called for a "model of unity in diversity in the Arab World", one that must, he believes, become a model for a fundamental Muslim Christian pact to be extended to the entire Arab world, starting with Lebanon.

Pact between the Church and the Mosque

With an eloquence not shown before, Ja'fari Mufti Ahmad Kabalan, said that Lebanon is not "solid stone" but a "man who is a relic of God."

"The Church and the Mosque must produce the man of love, of sharing and communion. This is a pact that Lebanon must seal," he added.

"Living together, for Muslims and Christians, must be embodied in the election of a new president who must preserve its spirit, even before he preserves its institutions."

Everybody knows that Lebanon's president has not yet been elected, and it is still uncertain whether he will be picked before the deadline (25 May) as required by the constitution, a possibility that fills Christian communities with grave concern. Lebanon's president, according to a constitutional convention, has to be a Maronite.

This provision is part of a National Pact that for the Lebanese embodies a desire by Christians and Muslims to live together in land cultural equality. Only in Lebanon does a Christian occupy such a high place within the state machinery.

Sheikh Naim Hassan, a Druze, stressed the commitment to moral values ​​and social dimension, emphasising how Lebanon can be a school of coexistence among people of different religious traditions. In his address, he equally praised "John Paul II's moral energy", as well as the importance of family values.

Rahi: "A new president"

As the last speaker, Patriarch Rahi, through John Paul II's intercession, called for a new president to be elected "before the end of the week."

As he concluded, the patriarch noted, "For John Paul II, the Middle East urgently needs reconciliation. However, true reconciliation cannot be achieved at the expense of rights. Lebanon's failure would be a tragic failure for freedom"

Therefore, "Let us pledge again to protect Lebanon in all its components and strengthen coexistence and cooperation on the basis of respect for freedoms and human rights, conscious that Lebanon is a valuable asset that must be placed at the service of the Arab world and the international community."

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Lebanon remembers its "friend" John Paul II
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