Pope to visit Lebanon despite tensions: spokesman

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing during the Angelus prayer at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, on the outskirts of Rome, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon next month will go ahead as scheduled, the Vatican said on Monday, despite tensions in the country linked to the raging conflict in Syria.

"The preparations for the visit are going ahead without any uncertainty on the part of the Vatican," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters.

Lombardi cited as evidence the September 14-16 trip would go ahead the fact that the pope's special car -- the "popemobile" -- was on its way to Beirut.

Lebanon has been battling to contain an eruption of violence triggered by events in neighboring Syria, including a spate of mass kidnappings that recalled the dark days of the country's own civil war.

Several oil-rich Gulf countries have ordered their nationals to leave the country in the face of threats, particularly against Saudis and Qataris whose governments are staunch opponents of the Syrian regime.

Turkey and the United States have also warned of possible attacks against their citizens.

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to bring a message of peace for the Middle East on his three-day trip.

The 85-year-old German pontiff is set to meet with various religious leaders in multi-faith Lebanon and emphasize in particular the need for peaceful coexistence between Christian and Muslim communities in the Middle East.





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