.- The Holy See announced today that Pope Benedict XVI is sending a special personal envoy to Lebanon. The Holy Father has tapped Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to head into the war-torn country.
The cardinal is to visit Lebanon on behalf of the Pontiff, “in order to express to the Maronite Catholic population and all who suffer in the region his spiritual closeness and concrete solidarity, and to pray for the great intention for peace.”
The visit, according to the Vatican, is of an “essentially religious nature.” Cardinal Etchegaray will meet with Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church and visit with members of the Catholic population there. The two cardinals plan, if possible, to concelebrate Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon, in Harissa.
The press release noted that the cardinal’s prayers for peace will be joined spiritually by a Mass celebrated at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel. The Holy See’s representative to Israel and Palestine, Archbishop Antonio Franco and Archbishop Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarchy of Jerusalem will concelebrate the Mass.
It was previously reported by Asia News that Cardinal Etchegaray would meet with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri; however such meetings have not been confirmed by the Vatican.
The Holy Father has been continuously calling for an immediate ceasefire in the region, as well as for prayers for a just and lasting peace.