.- On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI received the prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Rafic Hariri, in audience. During their meeting he expressed hope that Lebanon would continue to serve as a “message” to the Middle East of peaceful religious coexistence.
According to the Vatican, an “atmosphere of great cordiality” prevailed over the discussions which addressed issues of the day in Lebanon and were followed by a meeting with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
Pope Benedict told prime minister Hariri that he hopes Lebanon will “continue to be a ‘message’ for the region of the Middle East and for the whole world” through its “exemplary coexistence” of the religious communities that live and practice their faith within the country’s borders.
According to a Vatican communiqué describing the talks, discussions also touched on the need for “a just and global solution to conflicts affecting the region” and the importance of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue for promoting peace and justice there.
In reference to this goal, the leaders spoke of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which is to be held from Oct. 10-24 of this year.
The Vatican has yet to release the issues that will be addressed at the Synod, but efforts are currently underway to put together a “working document” for the meetings that will engage the bishops in discussion on themes including inter-religious dialogue, ecclesial communion and human rights in the region.
Saturday’s meeting concluded with discussion about the importance of the Christian presence in Lebanon and “great appreciation was expressed for the contribution made by the Catholic Church for the benefit of all society, especially through her educational, health care and aid institutions.”