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Pope calls for dialogue, peace ahead of Lebanon visit

A billboard bearing a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI is seen in the capital Beirut on September 8, 2012. Security forces have been placed on alert ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon on September 14-16, riven by religious rivalries and shaken by the conflict in neighbouring Syria, the visit's coordinator said. AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy: Pope Benedict XVI Sunday called for dialogue and reconciliation in the Middle East as he prepared to visit Lebanon, the neighbor of war-torn Syria.

“My apostolic trip to Lebanon, and by extension to the whole of the Middle East, is taking place under the sign of peace,” the pope said after delivering the Angelus blessing from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome.

“The commitment to dialogue and reconciliation must be the priority for all parties involved,” he said, calling for the international community to support such efforts.

“Even if it seems difficult to find solutions to the different problems, we cannot resign ourselves to violence and the exacerbation of tensions,” the 85-year-old German pontiff said.

The pope is due to arrive in Lebanon Friday for a three-day visit, during which he will sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi described the pope’s upcoming visit over the weekend as “an act of great courage and hope worldwide.”

He said the Arab Spring and the Syrian situation make the church’s engagement with the region’s Christians even “more urgent.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 10, 2012, on page 1.

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