.- In today's statement spurring Catholics to pray for peace in the region, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the rights of Lebanese, Israelis, and Palestinians in the Holy Land.
The Pope said that the people of Lebanon, who are currently suffering attacks from Israel in Israel’s attempt to root out Islamic militants Hezbollah, “have the right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected.”
That is not to say that the Holy Father does not understand the plight of Israelis who are fighting to stop terrorist attacks from Hezbollah and Palestinian assailants and to gain the return of Israeli soldiers who are being held by Hezbollah and fellow Islamic group Hamas. The Israelis have, the Pope said, “the right to live in peace in their State.”
However, the Pope also affirmed Palestinians in their struggle for a land of their own saying, “Palestinians have the right to have their own free and sovereign homeland.”
Lebanese are hoping the Vatican can play a greater role in resolving the current conflicts in the Holy Land and Lebanon. The Associated Press has reported today that Saad Hariri, son of assassinated Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri and leader of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon’s parliament, met with Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano yesterday in the Vatican. Hariri is reported to have asked for the Holy See’s assistance in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.
The more than one-third of the population of Lebanon is Catholic.