BEIRUT: Pope Francis voiced his deep concern Thursday over developments in the Middle East in general, and the situation in Lebanon in particular, the National News Agency reported.
It said the pope spoke during his meeting with participants in the Roman Catholic Church’s central governing body, including Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, in the Vatican. Following the meeting, the pope met separately with Rai, the NNA said.
The patriarch will meet again with the pope next week, it added.
Rai is currently on a two-week visit to the Vatican to take part in meetings at the Roman Catholic Church’s governing body. Speaking to reporters at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport before departing for the Vatican Tuesday, Rai warned against forming a fait accompli government, saying such a move would plunge Lebanon into further political turmoil.
The situation of Christians in the Middle East is expected to take center stage at upcoming talks between Pope Francis and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Diplomatic sources told The Daily Star that Obama’s visit to the Vatican and his meeting with the pope would focus on the position of Christians in the Middle East in general.
The sources said the Vatican-American talks would try to clarify some of the most sensitive religious issues and would adopt stances that would benefit Christians in the Middle East and Lebanon in particular.
The Vatican has already formed a crisis committee on the subject and has commissioned a group of bishops to prepare a report detailing the reality facing Christians in the region and their reasons for emigrating, as well as identifying possible solutions.
At the request of the crisis committee, Bkirki has also prepared a report on the situation of the Middle East’s Christians which was discussed by the pope and Rai during the patriarch’s last visit to the Vatican.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 14, 2014, on page 3.