Pope ends Lebanon visit with appeal for region's peaceRobert Mickens in Beirut - 16 September 2012
Pope Benedict XVI has made a fresh appeal for peace in war-wracked Syria and the entire Middle East while bringing a close to a weekend visit to Lebanon.
"May God grant to your country, to Syria and to the Middle East the gift of peaceful hearts, the silencing of weapons and the cessation of all violence!" the Pope told an estimated 350,000 people who gathered for an outdoor Mass along downtown Beirut's breath-taking Mediterranean waterfront.
The words punctuated a papal visit largely overshadowed by the ongoing fighting in neighbouring Syria and recent violence in several other Arab countries, sparked ostensibly by an American-made film denigrating Islam.
"I appeal to the international community! I appeal to the Arab countries that, as brothers and sisters, they might propose workable solutions respecting the dignity, the rights and the religion of every human person!" the Pope said.
While there have been no signs of violence or security problems in the greater Beirut area where he has visited, the Pope has not failed to voice concern for other hot spots in the Middle East.
He condemned the "flow of weapons" in the region on Friday while on his plane to Beirut. And he has made it clear throughout his state visit that he wanted to come to Lebanon and the Middle East at this "difficult" time to express his solidarity with the suffering people and be a "messenger" of the peace that has so eluded them.
Pope Benedict was to hold a closed-door ecumenical meeting this afternoon with leaders from Lebanon's non-Catholic Churches and communities before an early evening departure for Rome.
This is his 24th foreign journey since being elected Bishop of Rome seven years ago. The only future trip scheduled for the 85-year-old Pope is a journey to Rio de Janeiro in August 2013 for World Youth Day.
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