The Pope is going to Lebanon as a “messenger of peace” and the dramatically mounting tension that still today affects the entire region of the Middle East, “far from discouraging him have made his desire” to undertake this journey “even more pressing”. On the eve of Benedict XVI's departure, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone offers a key to interpreting the papal visit, describing it as “an invitation to leaders in the Middle East and to the international community to work with determination to find fair and lasting solutions for the region”.
In an interview with Le Figaro, a French daily, published in today's issue, 13 September, the Secretary of State says that for the Pope the advancement of human rights – and first among them the right of religious freedom – “is the most effective strategy for building the common good”. And he reaffirms the Church's “crystal clear” position with regard to every form of violence, which, he says, “only leads to further violence” and “ injures for life not only bodies but also minds”. In this regard the Pope in Lebanon “intends to be a prophetic and a moral voice”, asking “all men and women of good will to ensure that religion is never an incentive for war and division”.
The Cardinal believes that the Middle East today “is deeply indebted to the Christian presence”, which contributes to building a free, just and reconciled society”. The Church is therefore holding “out a hand to Islam, as a sign of dialogue and reconciliation”, aware that at stake is “working together to make this region a new cradle of civilization, culture and peace”. In the past few hours this conviction has also been expressed by Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati in an interview with Aki-Adnkronos International, who said he was confident that the Pope's visit to a country which is a meeting point and a point of interaction between civilizations and cultures, will be “the beginning of true collaboration among the peoples of all the Middle Eastern countries.
Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, also believes the Pope will find in Lebanon a nation keen “to become the protagonist in a longed-for process of peace and reconciliation”, a certainty shared by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, who speaks of a country “which has been able to believe in a possible understanding, never giving into the brittleness of results but rather giving credit to the shared belonging to a ”land” which came from God's hands and was blessed by him as a welcoming hope for all”. For his part, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio in Lebanon, stresses the multiple dimensions of the papal journey – ecclesial, social, national, regional and also international” – while Patriarch Béchara Rai of Antioch for Maronites reasserts the importance of dialogue, of reciprocal respect and of solidarity in order to build “the city of men” together.