In pouring rain, hundreds of Lebanese mourned the passing of Major General Francois El Hajj as his casket proceeded into the Maronite Catholic Basilica in Beirut.
General Hajj, who was killed along with his driver in an explosion on December 12, is the first military leader to be assassinated in Lebanon’s escalating political violence.
Lebanon has been shaken by a string of assassinations since 2005, but Hajj’s murder has prompted fears that even the military is not immune to the political violence. Many Lebanese see the military as the last institution keeping the country from tearing itself apart.
The funeral Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, was attended by pro-government and opposition politicians — Christian and Muslim — including a delegation from Hezbollah, which leads the opposition, according to the Associated Press.
Pope Benedict XVI sent his condolences in a telegram sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarciso Bertone to Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir.
In the telegram, the Pope expresses his "profound communion in the trials that are once again afflicting Lebanon in these difficult and delicate times for the country," and entrusts the souls of the deceased to divine mercy. He also gives assurances of his prayers for the families of the dead and injured, and for all those affected by "this act of unjustifiable violence."
Benedict XVI concludes by appealing to the Lord "to grant all the leaders of public life, and the Lebanese people, the interior strength and courage to discover, beyond particular interests, the road to unity and reconciliation so that the country may develop in peace and security."