Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pope celebrates open-air Mass on Beirut seafront


Pope Benedict XVI has held an open-air Mass on the seafront in Beirut on the concluding day of his three-day visit to Lebanon.
Hundreds of thousands cheered and waved flags as the popemobile made its way through the crowds.
The visit has coincided with anti-US protests across the region over a film deemed insulting to Islam.
The Pope appealed for the crowd to "be peacemakers" and prayed for an end to violence in neighbouring Syria.
"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," he said at the end of his Mass.
The Pope's three-day visit marks the first papal trip to Lebanon since John Paul II went there in 1997.
Enthusiastic crowds lined the roads and waved Lebanese and Vatican flags as the bullet-proof popemobile moved from one location to another, the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut reports.
Christians from around Lebanon and elsewhere in the region had travelled to the event, as well as some Muslims.
Threat of fundamentalism On Saturday the pontiff met Lebanese political leaders at the presidential palace near Beirut.
Later, he travelled to the town of Bkerke, seat of the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate, to address a gathering of thousands of young people.
  The Pope urged the young people in the crowd to work together for Lebanon's future
The Pope urged them to stay in Lebanon "and take your place in society and in the Church" and not to be tempted to emigrate in the face of unemployment and uncertainty, as many have in recent years.
In his speeches on Saturday, the Pope said that Lebanon, with its religiously mixed population, should be an "example" to the region.
"In Lebanon, Christianity and Islam have lived in the same space for centuries," he said at the presidential palace in Baabda near Beirut.
"It is not unusual to find, in the same family, both religions. If this is possible in one single family, why would it be impossible at the level of the society as a whole?" he asked.
Lebanon's politicians are bitterly divided over the conflict in neighbouring Syria, but the Pope met leaders from across the spectrum, including the Shia Muslim movement Hezbollah.
Earlier in his visit, the Pope condemned religious fundamentalism and called on all religious leaders in the Middle East "to do everything possible to uproot this threat".
Controversy over a film deemed to be offensive to the Prophet Mohammed has provoked protests throughout the region since the Pope's arrival in Lebanon.
One person was killed in Lebanon as protesters set fire to a KFC fast-food restaurant in the northern city of Tripoli, sparking clashes with security forces.
The Pope was being kept informed of protests against the film, a Vatican spokesman told the Reuters news agency.
The film, The Innocence of Muslims, believed to have been made by a Coptic Egyptian Christian in the US, has sparked violence across the Middle East and led to the death of the US ambassador to Libya.

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