12-September-2012 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Father Lombardi: Lebanese See Pope as Messenger of Peace

Vatican Spokesman Previews This Weekend's Trip

By Luca Marcolivio

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 11, 2012 (Zenit.org).- There are three days left before Pope Benedict XVI leaves for Lebanon. This is the 24th country visited by the reigning Pontiff and the fourth in the Middle East, after his pastoral visits to Turkey, the Holy Land and Cyprus.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi gave a briefing this morning on the trip. He noted that this is the second pastoral visit of a Pope to Lebanon, excluding Paul VI's brief stopover in 1965, when he greeted the Beirut authorities before going to India. It was Blessed John Paul II who went for the first time on an official visit to the "country of cedars" (1997).

The logo of Benedict XVI's forthcoming pastoral trip portrays on a white background the outline of a dove with red contours and a green olive branch in its beak. On the right there is a cross, at the center a stylized cedar in three green bushes and written below in red is Benoit XVI, which is above the dates of the visit: 14-15-16 September (white and red are in fact the colors of the Lebanese flag, at the center of which stands out the green of the cedar).

The motto of the Pope's pastoral visit to Lebanon is: Pax vobis.

Father Lombardi then said that on the occasion of Benedict XVI's pastoral visit, the Lebanese government has proclaimed Saturday, Sept. 15, a holiday.

Next Sunday, the last day for the Pontiff in the Middle Eastern country, coincides with the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the readings - as in the two previous days - will be as prescribed by the liturgical calendar, without variations on the theme.

The pastoral visit will take place essentially in Beirut and in some nearby localities.

Eighteen official religions are recognized in Lebanon; Christians classify themselves as Maronites, Greek-Orthodox, Greek-Catholic (Melkites), Armeno-Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac-Catholics, Protestants, Copts, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Catholics of the Latin rite. Muslims are divided among Sunnis, Shi'ites, Druze, and Alawites. The picture is completed by a considerable Jewish minority.

Benedict's departure and that of his delegation is planned for Friday, Sept. 14, at 9:30 am from Ciampino airport. The arrival at Rafiq Hariri International Airport of Beirut is scheduled for 1:45 pm (12:45 pm Italian time). In his stop in the capital, the Holy Father will deliver his first address on Lebanese soil in the presence of the first three officers of the State: the President of the Republic, Michel Suleiman (Christian), the President of the Council of Ministers, Najib Mikati (Sunni), and the President of the Parliament, Nabih Berri (Shi'ite).

At 6 pm the Pope will visit the Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa and will sign the postsynodal spostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Medio-Oriente," followed by the Pontiff's second address.

Saturday, Sept. 15 will open at 8 am with the celebration of Holy Mass in private in the Apostolic Nunciature of Harissa. Then, at 10 am Benedict XVI will meet privately with the President of the Lebanese Republic, in the Presidential Palace of Baadba. Private meetings with the President of the Parliament and the President of the Council of Ministers will be held in this same venue.

Still in the Presidential Palace of Baadba a meeting will take place at 10:50 am with the Heads of the Muslim religious communities, while at 11:15 am the Holy Father will meet with members of the government, of the institutions of the Republic, the Diplomatic Corps, religious Heads and representatives of the world of culture in the "25th of May" Salon.

Having left the Presidential Palace, Benedict XVI will go with his entourage to the Refectory of the Catholic Armenian Patriarchate of Bzommar, where at 1:30 pm he will lunch with the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon and with members of the Synod of Bishops' Special Council for the Middle East.

In the late afternoon of Saturday, at 6 pm, the Holy Father will give an address during his meeting with young people in the Square in front of the Maronite Patriarchate of Bkerke.

At 10 am on Sunday, September 16, the Pope will preside over Holy Mass at the Beirut City Center Waterfront, at the end of which he will deliver the postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the Middle East. Immediately after, the Pontiff will recite the Angelus.

Returning to the Apostolic Nunciature of Harissa, at 1:20 pm the Holy Father will lunch for the last time with his entourage.

Shortly after, at 5:15 pm, an Ecumenical Meeting will take place in the Hall of Honor of the Syro-Catholic Patriarchate of Charfet.

The last visit ended, Benedict XVI and his entourage will go at 6:30 pm to the Rafiq Hariri Airport of Beirut, where the Holy Father will deliver his farewell address.

The departure of the plane with the Pope and his entourage on board is fixed for 7:00 pm, and its arrival at Rome's Ciampino airport is scheduled for 9:40 pm Italian time.

All the official addresses and the final homily will be given by Benedict XVI in French, except some possible allocutions in English and Arabic.

At the end of the briefing, Father Lombardi stressed that, it being an apostolic visit, "the Pope does not present himself as a political Head but as a religious Head."

The Vatican spokesman confirmed, moreover, that there is no excessive concern for the Holy Father's security, given that in Lebanon, Benedict XVI is "a very welcome person by the greater part of the population and is seen as a messenger of peace."

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