.- Christians and Muslims in Lebanon are ready to work together to rebuild their war-torn country, said Cardinal Roger Etchegaray just before his departure from the country’s capital.
The former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace had been sent by Pope Benedict XVI as the official Vatican envoy to express the pontiff’s spiritual closeness and to pray for peace with the local people.
In addition to the spiritual nature of his visit the cardinal also met with the Lebanese president and other political leaders, as well as with the Shiite Council during his stay.
Yesterday, he celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary at Our Lady of Lebanon Sanctuary in Harissa. Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the patriarch of the Maronite Church, concelebrated the liturgy.
Etchegaray also met with the bishops of the Eastern rite churches and visited a refugee camp for those displaced by the war. The cardinal’s visit ended today.
“Based on my discussions with religious and political authorities, I can witness that Christians and Muslims are ready to put everything aside to work to rebuild their wounded country,” he said.
The cardinal expressed the hope that the ceasefire will be long lasting. “This ceasefire must allow for the deployment of all peace forces.”
He thanked international governments who worked to come up with a resolution for the ceasefire, in which these governments resolutely agreed to participate.
But, he said, the journey toward peace “is also a spiritual journey.”
“No efforts will last if they are not accompanied by a sense of peace in people’s hearts and souls,” he stated. “This is why we prayed at Our Lady of Harissa and the Lebanese people understood this well, having come out in such large numbers despite the difficulties. Only our submission to God will lead us to break the logic of evil … and blind and suicidal violence.”
“Peace is the pure breath of a family that truthfully believes that all of its members are brothers because they are equally loved by God,” he said.
The cardinal was moved by the plight of the people who were displaced by the war. “I think a lot about the displaced people from South Lebanon who are seeking, sometimes through tears, to find their homes and their land.”
“I ask all government and non-government institutions not to tarry, but to intensify their humanitarian aid efforts,” he urged.
He assured the Lebanese people that the Pope remains attentive to their suffering and to their spiritual and material needs.