Lebanon Eager to Welcome Benedict XVI

Organizer Speaks of Preparations for September Visit

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The people of Lebanon have great affection for Rome and the papacy, and are thus excited to welcome Benedict XVI to their homeland in September, says the coordinator of the papal visit.

Father Marwan Tabet, the former secretary-general for Catholic Schools in Lebanon, is organizing the trip in conjunction with Vatican officials. Father Tabet spoke with Vatican Radio when he was in Rome this week working on the preparations.

The Sept. 14-16 papal journey will be an official visit to Lebanon, and include meetings with Lebanese officials, as well as the Pope's traditional encounters with the world of culture, and interreligious representatives.

The culmination of the trip will come at Mass the last day, when the Holy Father will sign the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, fruit of the 2010 synod on the Middle East.

“The Lebanese population, Christian and Muslim, had heard that the Pope will be coming to Lebanon. They were expecting something to happen,” Father Tabet told Vatican Radio. “They didn’t know the date, the form or the content (of the visit) so when the news broke on Easter day, there was a lot of happiness coming with the Easter message. As everyone knows, the Lebanese are very attached to Rome and to the papacy, especially to the popes. The Lebanese had experienced the euphoria of a papal visit with John Paul II and they are waiting as well for this visit of Benedict XVI.”

Father Tabet noted that the Pope's three-day, two-night trip is "a long trip for the Pope and during this time he will be meeting with officials because it’s an official visit to the country of Lebanon. He will be meeting the political officials; he will be addressing the people of culture: writers, people from the private and the public sectors; he will be meeting with the youth -- we are preparing for a big encounter for the Pope with the youth."

“Many personalities from around the Middle East and north Africa will be present to welcome the Pope to listen to what he’s going to say," the priest added.

He also spoke of the context of the Pontiff's visit: “This part of the world is passing now through a very critical, very critical moment … what’s happening in Syria, what’s happening with Israel -- on both sides, Lebanon is not happy."

Father Tabet noted the Vatican's close contact with the region: “Rome is really watching carefully the progress of what’s happening and they have a position towards that and the Pope personally is concerned with the presence of the Christians in the East. That’s why we see in his speeches always, he comes back to their presence and he’s giving directives."