Young Lebanese See Papal Visit as Sign of Hope
21 Aug 2012 By Doreen Abi Raad
BEIRUT (CNS) — Lebanon’s younger generation
of Catholics sees Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept. 14-16 visit to
their country as a sign of hope in a region embroiled with
Marielle Boutros, a 25-year old Maronite Catholic
from Jbeil who teaches science at a Catholic school, said
the pope’s visit “means that even though we are suffering
and don’t have stability, there is someone in this world
who cares for us and wants us to stay here.”
“That’s why he’s coming here, to tell us to stay
here and not to quit our cause,” she said.
Firas Wehbe, a 34-year old Maronite Catholic
who heads up the sales unit of a bank, said the pope’s visit
“is a sign of hope for the youth, a support for them to stay
in their country and the Middle East, especially with the
turbulent situation around us.”
Wehbe said that when Pope John Paul visited
Lebanon in 1997 and the country was under Syrian
occupation, it was “a bad situation.”
“But now, it’s all the region,” Wehbe said. “So I
think that this visit is a sign from God, a message for us to
resist in a Christian way: through our beliefs, to stay here
in the holy lands and to live our lives according to the
Bible. Otherwise, we can go everywhere in the world. But
here, we have a message to live all together with other
religions, especially Muslims.”
“I’m talking from personal experience, because I
live in Tripoli, which is 90 percent Muslim,” Wehbe said.
“In fact, we don’t have problems as Christians, but the city
is experiencing political problems related to the situation
in Syria. The conflict in Syria is affecting the city, but we
hope it will end soon.”
Clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in
Tripoli in May and June killed up to 25 people.
The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico
Lombardi, said despite instability from Syria that has
spilled across Lebanese borders, preparations for the trip
“are proceeding without any uncertainties on the Vatican’s
part.” In fact, he said, the popemobile has already been
shipped to Lebanon.
During his visit, Pope Benedict will present a
major document addressing concerns expressed at the
2010 Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, but on Sept.
15 he is expected to meet with about 30,000 young people
at Bkerke, the patriarchal seat of the Maronite Catholic
Church, north of Beirut.
Father Toufic Bou Hadir, president of the
Maronite Patriarchate’s Youth Department, has been
planning the visit with a team of youth representatives
from Lebanon’s Catholic rites — Maronite, Syriac,
Armenian, Chaldean, Melkite, Coptic and Latin — as well
as representatives of Scout associations, apostolic
movements, students, nongovernment organizations,
youths with special needs, religious and seminarians, and
representatives of other Mideast countries.
“The Middle Eastern countries are now living a
so-called ‘spring.’ But a lot of places are seeing that spring
turning into winter and fall because we see blood and
terror around us,” said Father Bou Hadir, referring to the
instability in the region.
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Christian-Muslim relations Middle East Synod