Heed the message

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he boards the plane back to Rome, at Rafik Hariri International airport, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI can only be hailed as a success. It achieved all its objectives, from the collective welcome and genuine enthusiasm he received, to the problem-free security surrounding the visit.

The president himself accompanied the pope on nearly all of his visits during his time here, a sign of the importance that was placed in the event.

The trip surprised everybody in the country in many ways, not least that a pope of his age has so much energy and vitality, which he readily demonstrated throughout his three days in Lebanon.

Among the most significant characteristics of the popes’ visit is the manner in which Lebanese officials of all loyalties were united in welcoming the pontiff, in expressing their appreciation for his speeches and the points he made.

It was a rare occasion when political leaders were actively and openly in harmony, united behind every word the pope said. The pontiff’s calls for strength and coexistence were reflected by the determination of political leaders of all stripes to ensure he felt welcomed and to demonstrate that they were able to cooperate.

This experience proves a very important fact, one which people should internalize and remember: Lebanese are not doomed to differ with each other. On occasions like this they prove they can show unity beyond the call of duty, as well as political maturity and farsightedness to the benefit of the country.

Of course, acknowledging such capacity invites the question of why the country’s politicians cannot agree on the key principles on which this small country should be run at other times, even on those most basic ones from which the whole country would unequivocally benefit.

Hopefully the harmony and unity that has been witnessed on the principles put forth by the pope over his three-day visit can constitute a stable ground on which Lebanese can build, so that such an important trip would not be wasted.

The pope ignored all warnings, even from superpowers, to cancel his visit, given the current instability in the region and in Lebanon itself. He was determined to come in the midst of this volatility.

If this is not a sign of the love the pope has for this area in general, and its Christian community, then nothing is.

This fact makes it incumbent on the Lebanese to heed the words he delivered while he was here; to recognize and respect his wisdom, to which all political sides in Lebanon have responded positively.

His calls for interfaith unity in order to end violence in Syria and surrounding countries have resonance in Lebanon, which has already been shaken by violence influenced by the conflict its neighbor is experiencing.

Indeed, the pope made clear the importance of unity between the Lebanese people when he expressed his hope that they choose brotherhood between all faiths and backgrounds above discord. Throughout this visit the country’s leaders have demonstrated that they are more than capable of doing so.

Just maybe, this visit could herald the turning of a new leaf, and in doing so help this country sail calmly through the uncharted waters it is currently facing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 17, 2012, on page 7.




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