BEIRUT: Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad welcomed Thursday the upcoming visit by Pope Benedict XVI during a visit with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai at his summer residence in Diman.
“We expressed our complete readiness to welcome the pope and all Lebanese are looking forward to his visit,” Raad said.
Raad’s comments came following talks between a Hezbollah delegation and Rai during which they discussed the pope’s visit next week and its positive repercussions on the Lebanese political scene.
Thousands of people are expected to line the highway connecting Rafik Hariri International Airport to Beirut to welcome the pope next Friday.
Both Hezbollah and Amal have expressed support for the visit and organizers are preparing for a massive turnout as the pope visits Lebanon for the first time since succeeding his predecessor John Paul II.
“This visit is also an opportunity to reiterate our open and active contact with the head of the patriarchate and our conversations and exchange of opinions on many issues important to the country and the Lebanese people,” Raad said of Thursday’s meeting.
“Our opinions are very close and Patriarch Rai always focuses on restoring calm and stability in the country ... Such visits are means to bolster stability in Lebanon,” the Nabatieh MP added.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem met with a delegation from the committee organizing the pope’s visit.
“We expressed to the committee the importance of everyone’s participation in welcoming the pope away from any political disputes,” said Qassem.
Qassem said that Hezbollah would participate in various activities during the three-day papal visit and voiced hope it will fulfill its goals in conveying the Vatican’s message to the Lebanese.
“What we heard from Pope Benedict XVI’s stances is that he rejects wars and foreign intervention in the affairs of any country. The pope’s statements are important and they have contributed to real peace between everyone,” Qassem added.
Nabatieh MP Yassin Jaber hailed the visit as “historic” and “exceptional.”
“This visit is a historic one and an exceptional event that will reinforce confidence between the Lebanese and their country,” Jaber said, adding that John Paul II’s visit in 1997 had strong positive repercussions on Lebanon.
“The importance of the pope’s visit is that it reiterates that this nation is a meeting place between various cultures and religions and it’s a place for dialogue and pluralism that all contribute to Lebanon’s riches,” Jaber said, adding that the visit would also reinforce Muslim-Christian coexistence in the country.