The armed Shia resistance group Hezbollah and other factions in Lebanon have given the Vatican "reasonable guarantees" for the safety of Pope Benedict XVI during his visit this weekend to Beirut and environs.
"Otherwise the trip would not have gone ahead," said Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the papal nuncio to Lebanon. In an interview with the Reuters news agency on Monday, the nuncio admitted that fighting in neighbouring Syria "loomed" over the papal visit. But he said a delegation from Hezbollah - which is backed by Syria and Iran - had visited Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï to "express joy" at the Pope's trip.
Britain, the United States and Israel are among several countries that consider Hezbollah a terrorist group, but at a press conference yesterday, papal spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi refused to say whether the Vatican did.
Above: A poster of the Pope ahead of his visit to Lebanon Photo: CNS/Jamal Saidi, Reuters