Pontiff Aims to Promote Dialogue in Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI said he regards his upcoming trip to Lebanon as a visit aimed at promoting peace and dialogue in the entire Middle East.

Benedict is scheduled to visit Lebanon Sept. 14-18. “My apostolic visit to Lebanon, and by extension to the Middle East as a whole, is placed under the sign of peace,” he said Sunday, addressing the faithful gathered at his summer residence outside Rome.

Pope Benedict said he is “aware of the often dramatic situation experienced by the people of this region, too long torn apart by incessant conflicts” and that he understood “the anguish of many Middle Eastern people immersed in daily sufferings of all kinds, which sadly, and at times mortally, plague their personal and family life.”

The Pope did not name any specific country but his words seemed to refer to several ongoing crises, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the persecution of Christians in areas of the Middle East and the situation in Syria.

Pope Benedict said his “concerned thoughts go out to those who, in search of a place of peace, leave their family and professional life, and experience the precariousness of being exiles.”

He added, “Even though the search for solutions to the various problems affecting the region seems difficult, we cannot resign ourselves to the violence and exasperation of tensions. A commitment to dialogue and reconciliation must be a priority for all parties involved, and must be supported by the international community, increasingly aware of the importance of a stable and lasting peace in the region for the whole world.”

Here is the schedule for the trip. Times listed are Irish time.  There will be extensive coverage of the Papal visit on EWTN (Sky 589).

Friday, Sept. 14 (Rome, Beirut, Harissa)

— 7.30 a.m. Departure from Rome’s Ciampino airport for Beirut, Lebanon.

— 11:45 a.m. Arrival ceremony at Beirut’s Rafiq Hariri International Airport. Speech by Pope.

— 4 p.m. Visit to St. Paul’s Basilica in Harissa and signing of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation. Speech by Pope.

Saturday, Sept. 15 (Baabda, Bzommar, Bkerke)

— 8 a.m. Courtesy visit with President Michel Suleiman at the presidential palace in Baabda. Also private meetings with the president of the parliament and the prime minister.

— 8:50 a.m. Meeting with leaders of Muslim communities at the presidential palace in Baabda.

— 9:15 a.m. Meeting with Cabinet ministers, government officials, diplomats, religious and cultural leaders at the presidential palace in Baabda. Speech by Pope.

— 11:30 a.m. Lunch with the patriarchs and bishops of Lebanon, members of the Synod of Bishops and the papal entourage at the Armenian Catholic patriarch’s residence in Bzommar.

— 4 p.m. Meeting with young people in the square outside of the Maronite patriarch’s residence in Bkerke. Speech by Pope.

Sunday, Sept. 16 (Beirut, Harissa, Charfet)

— 8 a.m. Mass and presentation of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation for the Middle East at Beirut City Center Waterfront. Homily by pope. Recitation of the Angelus. Remarks by Pope.

— 11:20 a.m. Lunch with the papal entourage at the nuncio’s residence in Harissa.

— 3:15 p.m. Ecumenical meeting at the residence of the Syriac Catholic patriarch in Charfet.

— 4:30 p.m. Farewell ceremony at Rafiq Hariri International Airport in Beirut. Speech by Pope.

— 5 p.m. Departure for Rome.

— 7:40 p.m. Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.