BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri praised Thursday the recent elections of Pope Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina to head the Catholic Church.
“The election of your holiness as the head of the Catholic Church was a joyous occasion not only for Catholics worldwide but for all who believe in the principles of humanity, peace, justice, dialogue and moderation,” Hariri said, according to a statement from his office.
“In my name and those who I represent, I urge your holiness to accept my congratulations and devoted hopes on your noble mission,” he said.
Bergoglio, 76, was elected Wednesday, becoming the first pope to be elected from outside Europe in over a millennium.
“Lebanon, which late Pope John Paul II described as a ‘model of freedom and a message of plurality for the east and West,” and which Pope Benedict XVI described as “a model of balance for the region and world,’ was particularly pleased with the election,” Hariri said.
Church bells rang out in Lebanon Wednesday night as word spread that white smoke was billowing out of the Vatican chimney, signaling the election of a new pope.
Lebanon has a significant Christian population.