Pope meets with president of Lebanon, discusses country’s struggles

.- This morning Pope Benedict XVI met with the President of Lebanon, His Excellency General Michel Sleiman and his entourage.  The Pope and Vatican prelates showed their appreciation for the president’s work to encourage political dialogue and prayed for the safety of Christians in the Middle East.

Following the meeting with the Holy Father, the Lebanese president met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, His Excellency Mr. Fawzi Salloukh, the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, and His Excellency Msgr. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

During their discussion, the Vatican officials affirmed their interest in Lebanon and its continual struggle to safeguard its unique identity.   Within the past 20 years, the country has shifted from a predominately Christian country to a Muslim one, yet the two religious groups have continued to work side by side.

The Vatican delegation also expressed its appreciation at today’s meeting for the “effort that the country’s leaders have carried out to bring institutional life back on the track of normal political dialogue.”  “In this way, every component of the Lebanon population might offer its contribution to the common welfare and see their concerns and expectations met with due consideration.”

Beginning in July 2006, the country was hit by air raids from Israel due to the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.  Additionally, the Lebanese parliament has been divided between a group comprised of Christians, the Druze, anti-Syrian Sunnis and Hezbollah.

Finally, the group “touched on hopes for a rapid and just solution of the Palestinian question, noting the conditions and problems of the Christian communities in the Middle East,” concluded the release.

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