BEIRUT: Pope Benedict XVI is set to arrive in Lebanon in September, contrary to reports that ongoing turmoil in the region could delay his trip. A security team is currently in Lebanon, inspecting his route and scheduled stops for his three-day trip, due to begin on Sept. 14.
Earlier this month, the official gazette published Decree 8430, which establishes a committee that will coordinate the visit.
Environment Minister Nazem Khoury will head the committee. Other members include retired Brig. Joseph Njeim, who will head the committee’s executive body, as well as representatives from the Foreign, Transport and Public Works, Telecommunications, Information, Defense, Tourism, Interior and Finance ministries.
The committee is tasked with preparing for the visit, and has the right to make all decisions necessary to make the pope’s trip a success.
In terms of funding, Article 6 states that the committee can accept contributions, grants and assistance from individuals and associations as well as receive other sources of funding.
Article 8 regulates the committee’s finances, stipulating that all of its funds should be deposited in the Central Bank under an account named “Higher Committee to Organize the Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon.” All withdrawals, deposits and checks drawn from the account must be approved by both Khoury and Njeim.
The committee can enter into contracts with companies and institutions “competent” to organize the visit, but such contracts must be approved by a financial subcommittee, according to Article 7.
Another subcommittee will ensure that services are up to the appropriate standards for a papal visit.
Article 3 creates a subcommittee which will supervise the preparations, and further bodies will be formed from this subcommittee. Their heads will be recommended by the executive body and appointed by Khoury.
When the committee’s mission is over, Article 9 says Khoury must present the records of its spending and holdings to the Court of Accounts along with supporting documents. This must be done within two months.
Pope Benedict XVI’s itinerary has already been announced, and it includes a visit to Cabella Chapel that is being built on the grounds of the Presidential Palace which will accommodate 50 people.
In addition to meeting with officials, members of the public, and holding a mass at Beirut’s Waterfront, the pope will sign the Apostolic Exhortation, which contains recommendations to Christians of the Levant.
In November, Prime Minister Najib Mikati extended an official invitation to the pope on behalf of President Michel Sleiman and the Lebanese people.
The trip will mark the second to the region for Benedict, who was in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2009.