Pope Benedict XVI today condemned the importing of arms by Syria as a "grave sin".
Speaking to journalists during his flight to Lebanon this morning, the Pope said that if Syria stopped importing weapons, war would not continue.
He added: "Instead of importing weapons, which is a grave sin, we should import ideas, peace and creativity."
The Pope also said he had never considered cancelling his trip to Lebanon, despite the ongoing violence in neighbouring Syria and protests by Muslims this week in Libya and Egypt. "As the situation becomes more complicated, it is even more necessary to offer a sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity," he said.
He described fundamentalism as "always a falsification of religion", which goes against the meaning of religion, which is, he said: "an invitation to share God's peace throughout the world".
In response to fundamentalism, he said Church and of religions had to "undertake a purification of such temptations, to illuminate consciences and to try and provide everyone with a clear image of God".
The Pope also said the Arab Spring was in itself "a positive thing: a desire for greater democracy, more liberty, more co-operation and a new Arab identity". However, he said new freedoms had to be "correctly conceived" and correspond to more dialogue rather than the dominion of one over the other.
Read the interview on the plane here.
The Pope praised the coexistence of different religious communities in Lebanon as an example to the rest of the Middle East and to the world, but acknowledged that it was "extremely delicate" and could "snap like a bow".
Speaking on arrival today in Beirut at the start of his three-day visit to the country, where he will be signing a summary of outcomes from a 2010 Synod of Bishops meeting on the future of the Church in the Middle East, which he said was "intended as a roadmap for the years to come".
Arriving as protests continued in Libya and Egypt over an obscure US-made film that criticises Muhammad, he said: "The successful way the Lebanese all live together surely demonstrates to the whole Middle East and to the rest of the world that, within a nation, there can exist cooperation between the various Churches ... [and] coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions." Lebanon is home to Shia, Sunni, Druze and Alawite Muslims, and various mostly ancient Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
"Like me, you know that this equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate. Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan, even selfish, contrary and extraneous to Lebanese harmony and gentleness. This is where real moderation and great wisdom are tested," he said.
Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Rai told Vatican Radio that the Pope would help bring the "dawn of peace" to the region. "The real ‘Arab Spring' will arrive as the fruit of a ‘Christian Spring, and we can help to achieve this through communion and witness to love," he said.
Read the Pope's speech from Beirut airport here
Above: Pope Benedict greets Muslim, Druze leaders during welcoming ceremony in Lebanon Photo: (CNS/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)