Pope Benedict XVI's Visit to Lebanon - Full Texts
BY Edward Pentin
| Posted 9/15/12 at 10:38 AM
Below are the complete texts of all of Pope Benedict XVI's discourses delivered in Lebanon, beginning with the most recent.
Address of the Holy Father during Farewell Ceremony at Beirut's International "Rafiq Hariri" Airport:
Messrs President of the Parliament and of the Council of Ministers,
Your Beatitudes, my brother Bishops,
Civil and religious authorities, dear Friends,
As the moment to depart draws near, I leave Lebanon with regret. I thank you for your words, Mr President, and for promoting along with the Government whose representatives I salute, the organization of the various events during my stay with you, assisted in a special way by the efficiency of the various services of the Republic and the private sector. I thank, too, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Raï, and all the Patriarchs present, as well as the Eastern and Latin Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, seminarians and faithful who came to receive me. In visiting you, it was as if Peter himself had come to you and you received him with the cordiality which characterizes your Churches and your culture.
My especial thanks go to the entire Lebanese people who form a beautiful and rich mosaic and who have shown the successor of Peter their enthusiasm by the efforts, both general and specific, of each community. I cordially thank our venerable sister Churches and the Protestant communities. I thank in particular representatives of the Muslim communities. Through my stay here, I have noticed how much your presence has contributed to the success of my journey. In these troubled times, the Arab world and indeed the entire world will have seen Christians and Muslims united in celebrating peace. It is a tradition in the Middle East to receive a guest with consideration and respect as you have done. I thank you all. But, to that consideration and respect, you added something else, which can be compared to one of those renowned oriental spices which enriches the taste of food: your warmth and your affection, which make me wish to return. I thank you for that especially. May God bless you for it!
During my all too brief stay, motivated principally by the signature and consigning of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oriente, I have been able to meet various elements of your society. There were moments that were more official in character, others that were more intimate, moments of great religious importance and of fervent prayer, and others marked by the enthusiasm of young people. I give thanks to God for granting these occasions, for these meaningful encounters which I was able to have, and for the prayer offered by all and for all in Lebanon and the Middle East, whatever their origins or religious beliefs.
In his wisdom, Solomon asked Hiram of Tyre to build a house for the name of God, a sanctuary for all eternity (cf. Sir 47:13). And Hiram, whom I mentioned at my arrival, sent wood taken from the cedars of Lebanon (cf. 1 Kg 5:22). Cedar furnishings adorned the interior of the Temple, with garlands of sculpted flowers (cf. 1 Kg 6:18). Lebanon was present in the sanctuary of God. May the Lebanon of today, and her inhabitants, also dwell in the sanctuary of God! May Lebanon continue to be a place where men and women can live in harmony and peace with each other, in order to give the world not only a witness to the presence of God, the primary theme of this past Synod, but also a witness to the communion between people, the second theme of the Synod, whatever their political, social, or religious standpoint.
I pray to God for Lebanon, that she may live in peace and courageously resist all that could destroy or undermine that peace. I hope that Lebanon will continue to permit the plurality of religious traditions and not listen to the voices of those who wish to prevent it. I hope that Lebanon will fortify the communion among all her inhabitants, whatever their community or religion, that she will resolutely reject all that could lead to disunity, and with determination choose brotherhood. These are blossoms pleasing to God, virtues that are possible and that merit consolidation by becoming more deeply rooted.
The Virgin Mary, venerated with devotion and tenderness by the faithful of the religious confessions here present, is a sure model for going forward in hope along the path of a lived and authentic brotherhood. Lebanon understood this well when, some time ago, she proclaimed 25 March as a holiday, thus allowing everyone to live more deeply their unity in serenity. May the Virgin Mary, whose ancient shrines are so numerous in your country, continue to accompany and inspire you!
May God bless Lebanon and all the Lebanese! May he never cease to draw them to himself so as to offer them a share in his eternal life! May he fill them with his joy, his peace and his light! May God bless all the Middle East! Upon all of you, I affectionately invoke abundant divine blessings. « لِيُبَارِك الربُّ جميعَكُم » – God bless you all!
This afternoon, the Pope delivered the following address at an Ecumenical Meeting in the Hall of Honor of the Syro-Catholic Patriarchate of Charfet:
Your Holiness, Your Beatitude,
Venerable Patriarchs, Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Representatives of other Churches and Protestant Communities,
Brothers and Sisters,
It is with great joy that I meet with you, in this monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance of Charfet, a place of great importance for the Syrian Catholic Church in Lebanon and the entire Middle East. I thank His Beatitude Ignace Youssef Younan, Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, for his warm words of welcome. I fraternally greet each one of you, who represent the diversity of the Church in the East, and in particular His Beatitude Ignace IV Hazim, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and His Holiness Mar Ignatius I Zakke Iwas, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East. Your presence brings great solemnity to this meeting. I thank you with all my heart for being here with us. My thoughts also go to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt and to the Ethiopian Orthodox who have had the recent sadness of losing their respective Patriarchs. I wish to assure them of my fraternal closeness and of my prayers.
Allow me to acknowledge here the testimony of faith shown by the Syrian Antiochene Church in the course of its glorious history, a testimony to an ardent love for Christ, which has caused it to write some heroic pages of this history, right up to the present, by remaining committed to the faith even to the point of martyrdom. I encourage this Church to be for the peoples of the region a sign of the peace that comes from God as well as a light that keeps their hope alive. I extend this encouragement to all the Churches and ecclesial communities present in the region.
Dear brothers, our encounter this evening is an eloquent sign of our profound desire to respond to the call of Christ, "that all may be one" (Jn 17:21). In these unstable times, so inclined to the violence which your region knows so well, it is even more necessary that Christ’s disciples give an authentic witness to their unity, so that the world may believe in their message of love, peace and reconciliation. This is a message that all Christians, and we in particular, have been commissioned to hand on to the world, a message of inestimable value in the present context of the Middle East.
Let us work without ceasing so that the love of Christ may lead us little by little into full communion with each other. In this regard, by means of common prayer and mutual commitment, we must constantly return to our one Lord and Saviour. For, as I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente which I have the pleasure of consigning to you, "Jesus draws into unity those who believe in and love him; he gives them the Spirit of his Father as well as Mary, his mother" (n. 15).
I entrust each one of you and all the members of your Churches and ecclesial communities to the Virgin Mary. May she intercede with her Son for us, so that we may be delivered from every evil and from all forms of violence, and so that the Middle East may at last know a time of reconciliation and peace. May the words of Jesus that I have so often cited during this journey, « سَلامي أُعطيكُم » - My peace I give to you! (Jn 14, 27), be for all of us the common sign that we will give in the name of Christ to the peoples of this beloved region, which longs to see those words fulfilled! Thank you!
Having consigned the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, and before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father called on "Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, around whom both Christians and Muslims gather", to intercede "for the people of Syria and the neighbouring countries, imploring the gift of peace".
Benedict XVI went on:
"You know all too well the tragedy of the conflicts and the violence which generates so much suffering. Sadly, the din of weapons continues to make itself heard, along with the cry of the widow and the orphan. Violence and hatred invade people’s lives, and the first victims are women and children. Why so much horror? Why so many dead? I appeal to the international community! I appeal to the Arab countries that, as brothers, they might propose workable solutions respecting the dignity, the rights and the religion of every human person! Those who wish to build peace must cease to see in the other an evil to be eliminated. It is not easy to see in the other a person to be respected and loved, and yet this is necessary if peace is to be built, if fraternity is desired.
"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! May men understand that they are all brothers! Mary, our Mother, understands our concern and our needs. Together with the patriarchs and bishops present, I place the Middle East under her maternal protection. May we, with God’s help, be converted so as to work ardently to establish the peace that is necessary for harmonious coexistence among brothers, whatever their origins and religious convictions". (VIS)
At the end of this morning's Mass, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, invited the Holy Father to consign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Medio Oriente" to Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East, presidents of the episcopal conferences of Turkey and Iran, and a number of lay faithful. The Pope then delivered the following words:
Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The liturgical celebration in which we have just taken part was an opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, held in October 2010 on the theme: The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness. "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32). I would like to thank all the Synod Fathers for their contribution. My gratitude also goes to the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Eteroviƒ, for the work achieved and for his words on your behalf.
Having signed the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, I am pleased now to present it to all the local churches through you, the Patriarchs and Bishops, both Eastern and Latin, of the Middle East. With the consigning of this document there now begins its study and appropriation by all the members of the Church, pastors, consecrated persons and lay people, so that everyone will find new joy in the pursuit of his or her mission, encouraged and fortified to put into action the message of communion and witness understood in the various human, doctrinal, ecclesiological, spiritual and pastoral aspects of this Exhortation. Dear brothers and sisters of Lebanon and the Middle East, I hope that this Exhortation will be a guide to follow the various and complex paths where Christ goes before you. May communion in faith, hope and charity be strengthened in your countries and in every community so as to make credible your witness to the Triune God, who has drawn close to each one of us.
Dear Church in the Middle East, draw from the source of salvation which became a reality in this unique and beloved land! Follow in the footsteps of your fathers in faith, who by tenacity and fidelity opened up the way for humanity to respond to the revelation of God! Among the wonderful diversity of saints who flourished in your land, look for examples and intercessors who will inspire your response to the Lord's call to walk towards the heavenly Jerusalem, where God will wipe away every one of our tears (cf. Rev 21:4)! May fraternal communion be a support for you in your daily life and the sign of the universal brotherhood which Jesus, the firstborn of many, came to bring! Thus, in this region which saw his actions and heard his words, may the Gospel continue to resonate as it did 2,000 years ago, and may it be lived today and for ever!
At 8.20 this morning on the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Pope Benedict XVI was driven from the apostolic nunciature by car to Beirut's City Center Waterfront where he received the Keys of the City from the mayor of Beirut. At 10, the Pope celebrated Holy Mass on the occasion of the publication of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. Among those present were 300 bishops and faithful from across the Middle East, as well as the Lebanese President together with other institutional figures. The liturgical celebration was introduced with a greeting from the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Béchara Boutros Raï, O.M.M., who is also president of the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East. After the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered the following homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!" (Eph 1:3). Blessed be God on this day when I have the joy of being here with you, in Lebanon, to consign to the Bishops of the region my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente! I offer heartfelt thanks to His Beatitude Béchara Boutros Raï for his kind words of welcome. I greet the other Patriarchs and Bishops of the Eastern Churches, the Latin Bishops of the neighbouring regions, and the Cardinals and Bishops who have come from other countries. I greet all of you with great affection, dear brothers and sisters from Lebanon and from throughout this beloved region of the Middle East, as you join with the Successor of Peter in celebrating Jesus Christ crucified, dead and risen. My respectful greeting goes also to the President of the Republic, to the Lebanese authorities, and to the leaders and followers of the other religious traditions who have elected to be present this morning.
On this Sunday when the Gospel asks us about the true identity of Jesus, we find ourselves transported with the disciples to the road leading to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asks them: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mk 8:29). The moment he chose to ask this question is not insignificant. Jesus was facing a decisive turning-point in his life. He was going up to Jerusalem, to the place where the central events of our salvation would take place: his crucifixion and resurrection. In Jerusalem too, following these events, the Church would be born. And at this decisive moment, Jesus first asks his disciples: "Who do men say that I am?" (Mk 8:27). They give very different answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets! Today, as down the centuries, those who encounter Jesus along their own way give their own answers. These are approaches which can be helpful in finding the way to truth. But while not necessarily false, they remain insufficient, for they do not go to the heart of who Jesus is. Only those willing to follow him on his path, to live in fellowship with him in the community of his disciples, can truly know who he is. Finally, Peter, who had dwelt with Jesus for some time, gives his answer: "You are the Christ" (Mk 8:29). It is the right answer, of course, but it is still not enough, since Jesus feels the need to clarify it. He realizes that people could use this answer to advance agendas which are not his, to raise false temporal hopes in his regard. He does not let himself be confined to the attributes of the human saviour which many were expecting.
By telling his disciples that he must suffer and be put to death, and then rise again, Jesus wants to make them understand his true identity. He is a Messiah who suffers, a Messiah who serves, and not some triumphant political saviour. He is the Servant who obeys his Father’s will, even to giving up his life. This had already been foretold by the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. Jesus thus contradicts the expectations of many. What he says is shocking and disturbing. We can understand the reaction of Peter who rebukes him, refusing to accept that his Master should suffer and die! Jesus is stern with Peter; he makes him realize that anyone who would be his disciple must become a servant, just as he became Servant.
Following Jesus means taking up one’s cross and walking in his footsteps, along a difficult path which leads not to earthly power or glory but, if necessary, to self-abandonment, to losing one’s life for Christ and the Gospel in order to save it. We are assured that this is the way to the resurrection, to true and definitive life with God. Choosing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who made himself the Servant of all, requires drawing ever closer to him, attentively listening to his word and drawing from it the inspiration for all that we do. In promulgating the Year of Faith, which is due to begin next 11 October, I wanted each member of the faithful to renew his or her commitment to undertaking this path of sincere conversion. Throughout this Year, then, I strongly encourage you to reflect more deeply on the faith, to appropriate it ever more consciously and to grow in fidelity to Christ Jesus and his Gospel.
Brothers and sisters, the path on which Jesus wishes to guide us is a path of hope for all. Jesus’ glory was revealed at the very time when, in his humanity, he seemed weakest, particularly through the incarnation and on the cross. This is how God shows his love; he becomes our servant and gives himself to us. Is this not an amazing mystery, one which is at times difficult to accept? The Apostle Peter himself would only come to understand it later.
In today’s second reading, Saint James tells us to what extent our walking in the footsteps of Jesus, if it is to be authentic, demands concrete actions. "I, by my works, will show you my faith" (Jas 2:18). It is an imperative task of the Church to serve and of Christians to be true servants in the image of Jesus. Service is a foundational element of the identity of Christ’s followers (cf. Jn 13:15-17). The vocation of the Church and of each Christian is to serve others, as the Lord himself did, freely and impartially. Consequently, in a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship! Dear brothers and sisters, I pray in particular that the Lord will grant to this region of the Middle East servants of peace and reconciliation, so that all people can live in peace and with dignity. This is an essential testimony which Christians must render here, in cooperation with all people of good will. I appeal to all of you to be peacemakers, wherever you find yourselves.
Service must also be at the heart of the life of the Christian community itself. Every ministry, every position of responsibility in the Church, is first and foremost a service to God and to our brothers and sisters. This is the spirit which should guide the baptized among themselves, and find particular expression in an effective commitment to serving the poor, the outcast and the suffering, so that the inalienable dignity of each person may be safeguarded.
Dear brothers and sisters who are suffering physically or spiritually, your sufferings are not in vain! Christ the Servant wished to be close to the suffering. He is always close to you. Along your own path, may you always find brothers and sisters who are concrete signs of his loving presence which will never forsake you! Remain ever hopeful because of Christ!
And may all of you, my brothers and sisters who have come to take part in this celebration, strive to be ever more fully conformed to the Lord Jesus, who became the Servant of all for the life of the world. May God bless Lebanon; may he bless all the peoples of this beloved region of the Middle East, and may he grant them the gift of his peace. Amen.
The Pope's address this evening at a meeting in the presence of youth, seminarians and religious in a square across from the Maronite Patriarchate of Bkerké in Beirut. Among those present was the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Béchara Boutros Raï.
Your Beatitude, Brother Bishops, Dear Friends,
"May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord" (2 Pet 1:2). The words from the Second Letter of Saint Peter that we have just heard express a desire which I have long felt. Thank you for your warm welcome! I thank you most kindly for your presence in such great numbers this evening! I am grateful to His Beatitude Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï for his words of welcome, to Archbishop Georges Bou-Jaoudé of Tripoli, the President of the Council for the Lay Apostolate in Lebanon, to Archbishop Elie Haddad of Saïdā of the Greek Melkites, Vice President of the same Council, and to the two young people who greeted me in the name of all present. "Salàmi ō-tīkum" – "My peace I give to you" (Jn 14:27), Christ Jesus says to us.
Dear friends, you are living today in this part of the world which witnessed the birth of Jesus and the growth of Christianity. It is a great honour! It is also a summons to fidelity, to love of this region and, above all, to your calling to be witnesses and messengers of the joy of Christ. The faith handed down from the Apostles leads to complete freedom and joy, as the many Saints and Blesseds of this country have shown. Their message lights up the universal Church. It can light up your lives as well. Many of the Apostles and saints lived in troubled times and their faith was the source of their courage and their witness. Find in their example and intercession the inspiration and support that you need!
I am aware of the difficulties which you face daily on account of instability and lack of security, your difficulties in finding employment and your sense of being alone and on the margins. In a constantly changing world you are faced with many serious challenges. But not even unemployment and uncertainty should lead you to taste the bitter sweetness of emigration, which involves an uprooting and a separation for the sake of an uncertain future. You are meant to be protagonists of your country’s future and to take your place in society and in the Church.
You have a special place in my heart and in the whole Church, because the Church is always young! The Church trusts you. She counts on you! Be young in the Church! Be young with the Church! The Church needs your enthusiasm and your creativity! Youth is the time when we aspire to great ideals, when we study and train for our future work. All this is important and it takes time. Seek beauty and strive for goodness! Bear witness to the grandeur and the dignity of your body which "is for the Lord" (1 Cor 6:13b). Be thoughtful, upright and pure of heart! In the words of Blessed John Paul II, I say to you: "Do not be afraid! Open the doors of your minds and hearts to Christ!" An encounter with Jesus "gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (Deus Caritas Est, 1). In Christ you will find the strength and courage to advance along the paths of life, and to overcome difficulties and suffering. In him you will find the source of joy. Christ says to you: "Salàmi ō-tīkum" This is the true revolution brought by Christ: that of love.
The frustrations of the present moment must not lead you to take refuge in parallel worlds like those, for example, of the various narcotics or the bleak world of pornography. As for social networks, they are interesting but they can quite easily lead to addiction and confusion between the real and the virtual. Look for relationships of genuine, uplifting friendship. Find ways to give meaning and depth to your lives; fight superficiality and mindless consumption! You face another temptation, too: that of money, the tyrannical idol which blinds to the point of stifling the person at the heart. The examples being held up all around you are not always the best. Many people have forgotten Christ’s warning that one cannot serve both God and mammon (cf. Lk 16:13). Seek out good teachers, spiritual masters, who will be able to guide you along the path to maturity, leaving behind all that is illusory, garish and deceptive.
Bring the love of Christ to everyone! How? By turning unreservedly to God the Father, who is the measure of everything that is right, true and good. Meditate on God’s word! Discover how relevant and real the Gospel can be. Pray! Prayer and the sacraments are the sure and effective means to be a Christian and to live "rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith" (Col 2:7). The Year of Faith, which is about to begin, will be a time to rediscover the treasure of the faith which you received at Baptism. You can grow in knowledge and understanding of this treasure by studying the Catechism, so that your faith can be both living and lived. You will then become witnesses to others of the love of Christ. In him, all men and women are our brothers and sisters. The universal brotherhood which he inaugurated on the cross lights up in a resplendent and challenging way the revolution of love. "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13:35). This is the legacy of Jesus and the sign of the Christian. This is the true revolution of love!
Christ asks you, then, to do as he did: to be completely open to others, even if they belong to a different cultural, religious or national group. Making space for them, respecting them, being good to them, making them ever more rich in humanity and firm in the peace of the Lord. I know that many among you take part in various activities sponsored by parishes, schools, movements and associations. It is a fine thing to be engaged with and for others. Experiencing together moments of friendship and joy enables us to resist the onset of division, which must always be rejected! Brotherhood is a foretaste of heaven! The vocation of Christ’s disciples is to be "leaven" in the lump, as Saint Paul says: "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (Gal 5:9). Be heralds of the Gospel of life and life’s authentic values. Courageously resist everything opposed to life: abortion, violence, rejection of and contempt for others, injustice and war. In this way you will spread peace all around you. Are not "peacemakers" those whom in the end we admire the most? Is it not a world of peace that, deep down, we want for ourselves and for others? "Salàmi ō-tīkum!", Jesus says. He overcame evil not with more evil, but by taking evil upon himself and destroying it completely on the cross through a love lived to the very end. Truly discovering God’s forgiveness and mercy always enables us to begin a new life. It is not easy to forgive. But God’s forgiveness grants the power of conversion, and the joy of being able to forgive in turn. Forgiveness and reconciliation are the paths of peace; they open up a future.
Dear friends, a number of you are surely asking in a more or less conscious way: What is it that God expects of me? What is his plan for me? Wouldn’t I like to proclaim to the world the grandeur of his love in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in marriage? Might not Christ be calling me to follow him more closely? Think about these questions with confidence and trust. Take time to reflect on them and ask for enlightenment. Respond to his invitation by offering yourselves daily to the Lord, for he calls you to be his friends. Strive to follow Christ wholeheartedly and generously, for out of love he redeemed us and gave his life for each one of us. You will come to know inconceivable joy and fulfilment! To answer Christ’s call to each of us: that is the secret of true peace.
Yesterday I signed the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente. This letter is also addressed to you, dear young people, as it is to the entire People of God. Read it carefully and meditate upon it so as to put it into practice. To help you, I remind you of the words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: "You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written in your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Cor 3:2-3). Dear friends, you too can be a living letter of Christ. This letter will not be written with pen and paper, but with the witness of your lives and your faith. In this way, with courage and enthusiasm, you will enable those around you to understand that God wants the happiness of all without distinction and that Christians are his servants and his faithful witnesses.
Young people of Lebanon, you are the hope and the future of your country. You are Lebanon, a land of welcome, of openness, with a remarkable power of adaptation. At this moment, we cannot forget those millions of individuals who make up the Lebanese diaspora and maintain solid bonds with their land of origin. Young people of Lebanon, be welcoming and open, as Christ asks you and as your country teaches you.
I should like now to greet the young Muslims who are with us this evening. I thank you for your presence, which is so important. Together with the young Christians, you are the future of this fine country and of the Middle East in general. Seek to build it up together! And when you are older, continue to live in unity and harmony with Christians. For the beauty of Lebanon is found in this fine symbiosis. It is vital that the Middle East in general, looking at you, should understand that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society.
I understand, too, that present among us there are some young people from Syria. I want to say how much I admire your courage. Tell your families and friends back home that the Pope has not forgotten you. Tell those around you that the Pope is saddened by your sufferings and your griefs. He does not forget Syria in his prayers and concerns, he does not forget those in the Middle East who are suffering. It is time for Muslims and Christians to come together so as to put an end to violence and war.
In conclusion, let us turn to Mary, the Mother of the Lord, our Lady of Lebanon. From the heights of Mount Harissa she protects and accompanies you with a mother’s love. She watches over all the Lebanese people and over the many pilgrims who come from all directions to entrust to her their joys and their sorrows! This evening, let us once more entrust to the Virgin Mary and to Blessed John Paul II, who came here before me, your own lives and the lives of all the young people of Lebanon and the countries of the region, particularly those suffering from violence or from loneliness, those in need of strength and consolation. May God bless you all! And now together, let us lift up our prayer to Mary: "A salamou á-laïki ya Mariam …." (Hail Mary …)
At 1.30pm, the Pope had a luncheon with the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon, members of the Special Council for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops and the papal entourage in the refectory of the Armenian Catholic Patriachate of Bzommar. The Holy Father gave the following words:
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Members of the Special Council of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East,
Dear Members of the Armenian Catholic Synod,
Dear Seminarians, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I express my deep gratitude both to Patriarch Nersès Bédros for his invitation and for the words which he has just addressed to me, and to the Superior of this house. I cordially greet all the guests.
Divine Providence has allowed our meeting to take place here in this convent of Bzommar, which is so emblematic for the Armenian Catholic Church. The monk Hagop, more commonly known as Méghabarde — the sinner —, is an example for us of prayer, of detachment from material things and of faithfulness to Christ the Redeemer. Five hundred years ago, he promoted the printing of the Friday Book, thus establishing a bridge between Christians of East and West. From his example, we can learn the meaning of mission, the courage of truth and the value of fraternity in unity. As we prepare to replenish our strength with this meal which has been lovingly prepared and generously offered, the monk Hagop also reminds us that the spiritual thirst and the quest for higher things must remain always alive in our hearts, for "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mt 4:4).
Dear friends, through the intercession of the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus, and of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, let us ask the Lord to bless the Armenian community, so sorely tried down through the ages, and to send to its harvest numerous saintly workers who, because of Christ, are enabled to change the face of our societies, to heal hearts that are broken and to offer courage, strength and hope to those who despair. Thank you!
At 11.15am, the Pope met members of the government, institutions of the Republic, the diplomatic corps, religious leaders and representatives of the world of culture in the May 25th Hall of the Baabda Presidential Palace, and delivered the following discourse:
Representatives of the Parliamentary, Governmental,
Institutional and Political Authorities of Lebanon,
Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
"Salàmi ō-tīkum" (Jn 14:27)! With these words of Christ Jesus, I greet you and I thank you for your presence and your warm welcome. Mr President, I am grateful to you not only for your cordial words of welcome but also for having allowed this meeting to take place. With you, I have just planted a cedar of Lebanon, the symbol of your beautiful country. In looking at this sapling, and thinking of the care which it will need in order to grow and stretch forth its majestic branches, I think of this country and its future, the Lebanese people and their hopes, and all the people of this region which seems to endure interminable birth pangs. I have asked God to bless you, to bless Lebanon and all who dwell in these lands which saw the birth of great religions and noble cultures. Why did God choose these lands? Why is their life so turbulent? God chose these lands, I think, to be an example, to bear witness before the world that every man and woman has the possibility of concretely realizing his or her longing for peace and reconciliation! This aspiration is part of God’s eternal plan and he has impressed it deep within the human heart. So I would like to speak to you about peace, echoing Jesus’ invocation: "Salàmi ō-tīkum!"
The wealth of any country is found primarily in its inhabitants. The country’s future depends on them, individually and collectively, as does its capacity to work for peace. A commitment to peace is possible only in a unified society. Unity, on the other hand, is not the same as uniformity. Social cohesion requires unstinting respect for the dignity of each person and the responsible participation of all in contributing the best of their talents and abilities. The energy needed to build and consolidate peace also demands that we constantly return to the wellsprings of our humanity. Our human dignity is inseparable from the sacredness of life as the gift of the Creator. In God’s plan, each person is unique and irreplaceable. A person comes into this world in a family, which is the first locus of humanization, and above all the first school of peace. To build peace, we need to look to the family, supporting it and facilitating its task, and in this way promoting an overall culture of life. The effectiveness of our commitment to peace depends on our understanding of human life. If we want peace, let us defend life! This approach leads us to reject not only war and terrorism, but every assault on innocent human life, on men and women as creatures willed by God. Wherever the truth of human nature is ignored or denied, it becomes impossible to respect that grammar which is the natural law inscribed in the human heart (cf. Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 3). The grandeur and the raison d’être of each person are found in God alone. The unconditional acknowledgement of the dignity of every human being, of each one of us, and of the sacredness of human life, is linked to the responsibility which we all have before God. We must combine our efforts, then, to develop a sound vision of man, respectful of the unity and integrity of the human person. Without this, it is impossible to build true peace.
While more evident in countries which are experiencing armed conflict – those wars so full of futility and horror – there are assaults on the integrity and the lives of individuals taking place in other countries too. Unemployment, poverty, corruption, a variety of addictions, exploitation, different forms of trafficking, and terrorism not only cause unacceptable suffering to their victims but also a great impoverishment of human potential. We run the risk of being enslaved by an economic and financial mindset which would subordinate "being" to "having"! The destruction of a single human life is a loss for humanity as a whole. Mankind is one great family for which all of us are responsible. By questioning, directly or indirectly, or even before the law, the inalienable value of each person and the natural foundation of the family, some ideologies undermine the foundations of society. We need to be conscious of these attacks on our efforts to build harmonious coexistence. Only effective solidarity can act as an antidote, solidarity that rejects whatever obstructs respect for each human being, solidarity that supports policies and initiatives aimed at bringing peoples together in an honest and just manner. It is heartening to see examples of cooperation and authentic dialogue bearing fruit in new forms of coexistence. A better quality of life and integral development are only possible when wealth and competences are shared in a spirit of respect for the identity of each individual. But this kind of cooperative, serene and animated way of life is impossible without trust in others, whoever they may be. Nowadays, our cultural, social and religious differences should lead us to a new kind of fraternity wherein what rightly unites us is a shared sense of the greatness of each person and the gift which others are to themselves, to those around them and to all humanity. This is the path to peace! This is the commitment demanded of us! This is the approach which ought to guide political and economic decisions at every level and on a global scale!
In order to make possible a future of peace for coming generations, our first task is to educate for peace in order to build a culture of peace. Education, whether it takes place in the family or at school, must be primarily an education in those spiritual values which give the wisdom and traditions of each culture their ultimate meaning and power. The human spirit has an innate yearning for beauty, goodness and truth. This is a reflection of the divine, God’s mark on each person! This common aspiration is the basis for a sound and correct notion of morality, which is always centred on the person. Yet men and women can turn towards goodness only of their own free will, for "human dignity requires them to act out of a conscious and free choice, as moved in a personal way from within, and not by their own blind impulses or by exterior constraint" (Gaudium et Spes, 17). The goal of education is to guide and support the development of the freedom to make right decisions, which may run counter to widespread opinions, the fashions of the moment, or forms of political and religious ideology. This is the price of building a culture of peace! Evidently, verbal and physical violence must be rejected, for these are always an assault on human dignity, both of the perpetrator and the victim. Emphasizing peacemaking and its positive effect for the common good also creates interest in peace. As history shows, peaceful actions have a significant effect on local, national and international life. Education for peace will form men and women who are generous and upright, attentive to all, especially those most in need. Thoughts of peace, words of peace and acts of peace create an atmosphere of respect, honesty and cordiality, where faults and offences can be truthfully acknowledged as a means of advancing together on the path of reconciliation. May political and religious leaders reflect on this!
We need to be very conscious that evil is not some nameless, impersonal and deterministic force at work in the world. Evil, the devil, works in and through human freedom, through the use of our freedom. It seeks an ally in man. Evil needs man in order to act. Having broken the first commandment, love of God, it then goes on to distort the second, love of neighbour. Love of neighbour disappears, yielding to falsehood, envy, hatred and death. But it is possible for us not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21). It is to this conversion of heart that we are called. Without it, all our coveted human "liberations" prove disappointing, for they are curtailed by our human narrowness, harshness, intolerance, favouritism and desire for revenge. A profound transformation of mind and heart is needed to recover a degree of clarity of vision and impartiality, and the profound meaning of the concepts of justice and the common good. A new and freer way of looking at these realities will enable us to evaluate and challenge those human systems which lead to impasses, and to move forward with due care not to repeat past mistakes with their devastating consequences. The conversion demanded of us can also be exhilarating, since it creates possibilities by appealing to the countless resources present in the hearts of all those men and women who desire to live in peace and are prepared to work for peace. True, it is quite demanding: it involves rejecting revenge, acknowledging one’s faults, accepting apologies without demanding them, and, not least, forgiveness. Only forgiveness, given and received, can lay lasting foundations for reconciliation and universal peace (cf. Rom 12:16b, 18).
Only in this way can there be growth in understanding and harmony between cultures and religions, and in genuine mutual esteem and respect for the rights of all. In Lebanon, Christianity and Islam have lived side by side for centuries. It is not uncommon to see the two religions within the same family. If this is possible within the same family, why should it not be possible at the level of the whole of society? The particular character of the Middle East consists in the centuries-old mix of diverse elements. Admittedly, they have fought one another, sadly that is also true. A pluralistic society can only exist on the basis of mutual respect, the desire to know the other, and continuous dialogue. Such dialogue is only possible when the parties are conscious of the existence of values which are common to all great cultures because they are rooted in the nature of the human person. This substratum of values expresses man’s true humanity. These values are inseparable from the rights of each and every human being. By upholding their existence, the different religions make a decisive contribution. It cannot be forgotten that religious freedom is the basic right on which many other rights depend. The freedom to profess and practise one’s religion without danger to life and liberty must be possible to everyone. The loss or attenuation of this freedom deprives the person of his or her sacred right to a spiritually integrated life. What nowadays passes for tolerance does not eliminate cases of discrimination, and at times it even reinforces them. Without openness to transcendence, which makes it possible to find answers to their deepest questions about the meaning of life and morally upright conduct, men and women become incapable of acting justly and working for peace. Religious freedom has a social and political dimension which is indispensable for peace! It promotes a harmonious life for individuals and communities by a shared commitment to noble causes and by the pursuit of truth, which does not impose itself by violence but rather "by the force of its own truth" (Dignitatis Humanae, 1): the Truth which is in God. A lived faith leads invariably to love. Authentic faith does not lead to death. The peacemaker is humble and just. Thus believers today have an essential role, that of bearing witness to the peace which comes from God and is a gift bestowed on all of us in our personal, family, social, political and economic life (cf. Mt 5:9; Heb 12:14). The failure of upright men and women to act must not permit evil to triumph. It is worse still to do nothing.
These few reflections on peace, society, the dignity of the person, the values of family life, dialogue and solidarity, must not remain a simple statement of ideals. They can and must be lived out. We are in Lebanon, and it is here that they must be lived out. Lebanon is called, now more than ever, to be an example. And so I invite you, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, men and women of the world of culture, to testify with courage, in season and out of season, wherever you find yourselves, that God wants peace, that God entrusts peace to us. "Salàmi ō-tīkum" (Jn 14:27) says Christ! May God bless you! Thank you!
At 6pm, the Holy Father arrived at the Greek-Melkite Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa, just outside Beirut, where he signed the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente - a document summarizing the fruits of the work of the Synod of Bishops on the Church in the Middle East, held in the Vatican in October 2010. The Pope gave the following speech to the assembled dignitaries:
Dear Brother Bishops and Members of the Special Council of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East,
Distinguished Representatives of the various religious confessions, the world of culture and civil society,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I thank Patriarch Gregorios Laham for his words of welcome, and the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, for his introduction. My warm greetings go to the Patriarchs, to all the Eastern and Latin Bishops assembled in this beautiful Cathedral of Saint Paul, and to the members of the Special Council of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. I am also gratified by the presence of the Orthodox, Muslim and Druze delegations, as well as those from the world of culture and from civil society. I greet with affection the beloved Greek Melkite community with gratitude for your welcome. Your presence makes my signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente all the more solemn; it testifies that this document, while addressed to the universal Church, has a particular importance for the entire Middle East.
Providentially, this event takes place on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a celebration originating in the East in 335, following the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection built over Golgotha and our Lord’s tomb by the Emperor Constantine the Great, whom you venerate as saint. A month from now we will celebrate the seventeen-hundredth anniversary of the appearance to Constantine of the Chi-Rho, radiant in the symbolic night of his unbelief and accompanied by the words: "In this sign you will conquer!" Later, Constantine signed the Edict of Milan, and gave his name to Constantinople. It seems to me that the Post-Synodal Exhortation can be read and understood in the light of this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and more particularly in the light of the Chi-Rho, the two first letters of the Greek word "Christos". Reading it in this way leads to renewed appreciation of the identity of each baptized person and of the Church, and is at the same time a summons to witness in and through communion. Are not Christian communion and witness grounded in the Paschal Mystery, in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ? Is it not there that they find their fulfilment? There is an inseparable bond between the cross and the resurrection which Christians must never forget. Without this bond, to exalt the cross would mean to justify suffering and death, seeing them merely as our inevitable fate. For Christians, to exalt the cross means to be united to the totality of God’s unconditional love for mankind. It means making an act of faith! To exalt the cross, against the backdrop of the resurrection, means to desire to experience and to show the totality of this love. It means making an act of love! To exalt the cross means to be a committed herald of fraternal and ecclesial communion, the source of authentic Christian witness. It means making an act of hope!
In examining the present situation of the Church in the Middle East, the Synod Fathers reflected on the joys and struggles, the fears and hopes of Christ’s disciples in these lands. In this way, the entire Church was able to hear the troubled cry and see the desperate faces of many men and women who experience grave human and material difficulties, who live amid powerful tensions in fear and uncertainty, who desire to follow Christ – the One who gives meaning to their existence – yet often find themselves prevented from doing so. That is why I wanted the First Letter of Saint Peter to serve as the framework of the document. At the same time, the Church was able to admire all that is beautiful and noble in the Churches in these lands. How can we fail to thank God at every moment for all of you (cf. 1 Th 1:2; Part One of the Post-Synodal Exhortation), dear Christians of the Middle East! How can we fail to praise him for your courage and faith? How can we fail to thank him for the flame of his infinite love which you continue to keep alive and burning in these places which were the first to welcome his incarnate Son? How can we fail to praise and thank him for your efforts to build ecclesial and fraternal communion, and for the human solidarity which you constantly show to all God’s children?
Ecclesia in Medio Oriente makes it possible to rethink the present in order to look to the future with the eyes of Christ. By its biblical and pastoral orientation, its invitation to deeper spiritual and ecclesiological reflection, its call for liturgical and catechetical renewal, and its summons to dialogue, the Exhortation points out a path for rediscovering what is essential: being a follower of Christ even in difficult and sometimes painful situations which may lead to the temptation to ignore or to forget the exaltation of the cross. It is here and now that we are called to celebrate the victory of love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, service over domination, humility over pride, and unity over division. In the light of today’s Feast, and in view of a fruitful application of the Exhortation, I urge all of you to fear not, to stand firm in truth and in purity of faith. This is the language of the cross, exalted and glorious! This is the "folly" of the cross: a folly capable of changing our sufferings into a declaration of love for God and mercy for our neighbour; a folly capable of transforming those who suffer because of their faith and identity into vessels of clay ready to be filled to overflowing by divine gifts more precious than gold (cf. 2 Cor 4:7-18). This is more than simply picturesque language: it is a pressing appeal to act concretely in a way which configures us ever more fully to Christ, in a way which helps the different Churches to reflect the beauty of the first community of believers (cf. Acts 2:41-47: Part Two of the Exhortation); in a way like that of the Emperor Constantine, who could bear witness and bring Christians forth from discrimination to enable them openly and freely to live their faith in Christ crucified, dead and risen for the salvation of all.
Ecclesia in Medio Oriente provides some elements that are helpful for a personal and communal examination of conscience, and an objective evaluation of the commitment and desire for holiness of each one of Christ’s disciples. The Exhortation shows openness to authentic interreligious dialogue based on faith in the one God, the Creator. It also seeks to contribute to an ecumenism full of human, spiritual and charitable fervour, in evangelical truth and love, drawing its strength from the commandment of the risen Lord: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:19-20).
The Exhortation as a whole is meant to help each of the Lord’s disciples to live fully and to pass on faithfully to others what he or she has become by Baptism: a child of light, sharing in God’s own light, a lamp newly lit amid the troubled darkness of this world, so that the light may shine in the darkness (cf. Jn 1:4f. and 2 Cor 4:1-6). The document seeks to help purify the faith from all that disfigures it, from everything that can obscure the splendour of Christ’s light. For communion is true fidelity to Christ, and Christian witness is the radiance of the paschal mystery which gives full meaning to the cross, exalted and glorious. As his followers, "we proclaim Christ crucified … the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:23-24; cf. Part Three of the Exhortation).
"Fear not, little flock" (Lk 12:32) and remember the promise made to Constantine: "In this sign you will conquer!" Churches of the Middle East, fear not, for the Lord is truly with you, to the close of the age! Fear not, because the universal Church walks at your side and is humanly and spiritually close to you! It is with this hope and this word of encouragement to be active heralds of the faith by your communion and witness, that on Sunday I will entrust the Post-Synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to my venerable brother Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops, and to all priests, deacons, men and women religious, the seminarians and all the lay faithful. "Be of good cheer" (Jn 16:33)! Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Theotókos, I invoke God’s abundant gifts upon all of you with great affection! God grant that all the peoples of the Middle East may live in peace, fraternity and religious freedom! May God bless all of you! (Lè yo barèk al-Rab jami’a kôm!)
A summary of the apostolic exhortation can be read here.
Shortly after arriving at Rafic Hariri international airport in Beirut at around 2pm, Pope Benedict XVI delivered the following address at a welcoming ceremony in the presence of Lebanon's President, Michel Suleiman, and other civic and religious leaders.
Messrs President of the Parliament and of the Council of Ministers,
Your Beatitudes, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Civil and Religious Authorities, dear Friends,
It is my honour to accept your invitation, Mr President, and that of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon, to visit your country. This dual invitation demonstrates, were it necessary, the dual purpose of my visit to your country. It underlines the excellent relations which have always existed between Lebanon and the Holy See, and seeks to contribute to strengthening them. This visit is also in response to your own visits to Rome in November 2008, and more recently in February 2011, a visit which was followed nine months later by that of the Prime Minister.
It was during the second of our meetings that the magnificent statue of Saint Maron was blessed. His silent presence at the side of Saint Peter’s Basilica is a constant reminder of Lebanon in the very place where the Apostle Peter was laid to rest. It witnesses to a long spiritual heritage, confirming the Lebanese people’s veneration for the first of the Apostles and for his successors. It is in order to underline the great devotion to Simon Peter that the Maronite Patriarchs add Boutros to their first name. It is wonderful to see how, from that Petrine sanctuary, Saint Maron intercedes continually for your country and for the entire Middle East. Let me thank you in advance, Mr President, for all that you have done to make my stay among you a success.
Another reason for my visit is the important ecclesial event of the signature and the consigning of the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente. I thank all the Catholic Patriarchs who have come, and particularly the Patriarch Emeritus, the beloved Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, and his successor Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï. I offer fraternal greetings to all the Bishops of Lebanon, as well as to those who have travelled to pray with me and to receive this document from the hands of the Pope himself. Through them, I send fatherly greetings to all the Christians of the Middle East. Addressed to everyone, the Exhortation is intended as a roadmap for the years to come. During these days I am also pleased to be able to meet many representatives from the Catholic communities of your country, so as to celebrate and pray together. Their presence, commitment and witness are a valued contribution and are highly appreciated in the daily life of all the inhabitants of your beloved country.
I wish also to greet very warmly the Orthodox Patriarchs and Bishops who have come to welcome me, as well as the representatives of the other religious communities in Lebanon. Dear friends, your presence shows the esteem and the cooperation which, in mutual respect, you wish to promote among everyone. I thank you for your efforts and I am certain that you will continue to seek out the paths of unity and concord. I cannot forget the sad and painful events which have affected your beautiful country along the years. 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, all members of the one Catholic Church in a fraternal spirit of communion with other Christians, and at the same time coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions. 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. And reason must overcome one-sided passion in order to promote the greater good of all. Did not the great King Solomon, who knew Hiram, King of Tyre, consider that wisdom was the supreme virtue? This is why he pleaded to God for it insistently, and God gave him a wise and intelligent heart (1 Kg 3:9-12).
I have also come to say how important the presence of God is in the life of everyone and how the manner of coexistence, this conviviality to which your country wishes to bear witness, will run deep only if it is founded upon a welcoming regard for the other and upon an attitude of benevolence, and if it is rooted in God who wishes all men to be brothers. The celebrated Lebanese equilibrium which wishes to continue to be a reality, will continue through the good will and commitment of all Lebanese. Only then will it serve as a model to the inhabitants of the whole region and of the entire world. This is not just a human task, but a gift of God which should be sought with insistence, preserved at all costs, and consolidated with determination.
The links between Lebanon and the Successor of Peter are ancient and deep. Mr President, dear friends, I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men. Christ says, Salàmi ō-tīkum, "My peace I give to you" (Jn 14:27). And looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs. To them too Christ says: Salàmi ō-tīkum. Your joys and sorrows are constantly present in the Pope's prayers and I ask God to accompany you and to comfort you. Let me assure you that I pray especially for the many people who suffer in this region. The statue of Saint Maron reminds me of what you live and endure.
Mr President, I know that your country is preparing a fine welcome for me, a warm welcome, the welcome that is given to a beloved and respected brother. I know that your country wishes to be worthy of the Lebanese Ahlan wa Sahlan [welcome]. It is already so, and from now on it will be so even more. I am happy to be here with you. May God bless you all. (Lè yo barèk al-Rab jami’a kôm!) Thank you.
Transcript of press conference on papal plane.
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