Youths carry a large cross during a meeting with Pope Benedict in Bkerke, Lebanon, Sept. 15.
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict said his three-day trip to Lebanon convinced him that now is the time for Christians and Muslims to bear witness together against violence and in favor of dialogue and peace.
In Lebanon, he said, Muslims “welcomed me with great respect,” and their presence at each of his public events “gave me an opportunity to launch a message of dialogue and cooperation between Christianity and Islam.”
Reviewing his Sept. 14-16 trip to Lebanon, the pope told people gathered in the Vatican audience hall that the “relaxed and constructive climate” of meetings with Lebanese religious leaders, government officials and crowds made up of Christians and Muslims was “a strong sign of hope for the future of humanity.”
Lebanon’s tradition of different religions not only coexisting in peace but working together for the good of the country must be treasured, strengthened and seen as an example for the whole region, the pope said.
“In the face of the dramas and sufferings that continue in the Middle East,” he said he wanted to show his support for “the legitimate aspirations” of the region’s people. “I am thinking in particular of the terrible conflict tormenting Syria and causing thousands of deaths and a flood of refugees fleeing in a desperate search for safety and a future.”
Pope Benedict said he was especially touched by the festive atmosphere that marked his meeting Sept. 15 with young people from Lebanon.