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Pope calls for peace ahead of Lebanon visit

Commitment to dialogue and reconciliation must be priority, he says

Image Credit: AFP
A billboard bearing a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI is seen in the capital Beirut on Saturday. Security forces have beenplaced on alert ahead of the papal visit on September 14-16.
Gulf News

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy: Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday called for dialogue and reconciliation in the Middle East as he prepared to visit war-torn Syria’s neighbour Lebanon.

“My apostolic trip to Lebanon, and by extension to the whole of the Middle East, is taking place under the sign of peace,” the pope said after delivering the Angelus blessing from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome.

“The commitment to dialogue and reconciliation must be the priority for all parties involved,” he said, calling for the international community to support such efforts.

“Even if it seems difficult to find solutions to the different problems, we cannot resign ourselves to violence and the exacerbation of tensions,” said the 85-year-old German pontiff.

The pope is due to leave on Friday for a three-day visit to Lebanon, which has been battling to contain an eruption of violence triggered by Syria’s bloodshed, including a spate of mass kidnappings that recalled the dark days of the country’s own civil war.

Syria has been embroiled in deadly turmoil since March 2011, when what started out as peaceful protests against the rule of President Bashar Al Assad took off on the heels of the Arab Spring.

The conflict has turned increasingly deadly and today Syrian rebels and the regime army are battling each other on the streets of the country’s major cities, and activists estimate that more than 26,000 people have been killed since the uprising started.