BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman called on the Lebanese to line the streets leading to the Presidential Palace in order to welcome Pope Benedict XVI and be given his blessing.
Sleiman “urges all citizens to gather starting 8 a.m. [Saturday] along the street of the presidential palace through which the Popemobile carrying the great visitor will pass, so as to catch a glimpse of [the pope] and receive his blessing,” a statement by Baabda Palace said.
The pontiff, who arrived in Lebanon Friday on a three-day historic visit amid turmoil in the Middle East, is scheduled to meet Sleiman in the presence of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati at 10 a.m.
While at the palace, the Holy See will also hold separate meetings with the religious leaders of the Muslim community, members of the government, the diplomatic corps and representatives of the cultural world.
From there, the pope will head to Bzommar, seat of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, for a lunch that will be attended by patriarchs and bishops of the Christian denominations of Lebanon, including members of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.
At 6 p.m., Pope Benedict will meet with a group of youth in Bkirki, seat of the Maronite Patriarchate.
On Friday, the pope called for peace and reconciliation between the peoples of the Middle East, while denouncing religious fundamentalism as “a falsification of religion.”
His visit comes amid deadly clashes rage in Syria and an outburst of violence in several Arab countries over a U.S.-made anti-Islam film.
The pope has urged a halt to arms imports to Syria, describing them as a “grave sin.” The importation of weapons must be stopped, because without the weapons the war could not continue,” he said Friday.
“Instead of importing weapons, which is a grave sin, we should import ideas of peace and creativity and find solutions to accept each other with our differences.”