The Press Office of the Holy See made public this morning a statement which describes the Holy Father as “profoundly grieved,” and in which he asks Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, “to express his spiritual closeness to the injured and to the relatives of the victims, and give them assurances of his prayers.”
“Entrusting to divine providence those who died so tragically,” the message continues, “the Holy Father invokes the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary upon the entire Lebanese nation. He calls upon the Lebanese people and their representatives to unanimously reject violence and hopes that, in this dramatic event, they may find the motivation for a commitment in favor of national unity and the common good."
Yesterday afternoon Cardinal Bertone also mentioned the difficulties in Lebanon at the conclusion of a Mass he was celebrating with the Opera Roman Pellegrinaggi. “I urge you to pray for Lebanon, where there has been a serious anti-Christian attack today,” Bertone told the crowd at Mass. “Let’s pray for this terribly tortured land for which the Pope has made several appeals already.”
According to Rome’s Religious Information Service, the attack on Bikafaya, in the heart of the Maronite area just south-east of Beirut, involved two bombs placed on two “micro-buses” that were detonated at the same time. Three people died and about 20 were injured, in the attack.
Cardinal Bertone called the attacks which took place in a Christian sector on the eve of the second anniversary of the murder of former Maronite Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, a “serious anti-Christian attack.”
According to the Associated Press, the buses carry residents of the nearby Christian mountain villages to and from work
Pro-government groups said the attacks were intended to scare people away from Wednesday's rally for Hariri, who was an opponent of neighboring Syria's interference in Lebanese affairs. They were adamant the gathering would not be canceled.
Lebanon has been hit by a string of bombings the past two years that many government supporters blame on Syria. Syria has denied any role in the attacks, including the suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005.
After Tuesday's blasts, the pro-government majority coalition in parliament said in a statement that it holds "the Syrian regime fully responsible for this despicable crime." It accused Syria of trying to "make Lebanon another Iraq by destroying its security and stability."
The coalition also pointed a finger at Syrian-backed Hezbollah and called for beefing up security on the border with Syria "to halt the flow of arms to subversive groups directly linked to (Syria's) regime."
The blasts occurred in the same predominantly Maronite Catholic area as most of the previous explosions that have rocked Lebanon since Hariri's assassination, targeting anti-Syrian politicians, journalists, as well as commercial and industrial centers. A U.N. investigation into Hariri's murder also is looking into the other attacks.
Both Pope Benedict XVI and his Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, have addressed a Tuesday morning bomb attack in a Christian area of Lebanon, which killed three and left at least 20 others wounded.