VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In French-language remarks at the end of today's general audience, Benedict XVI noted that his departure for Lebanon is now imminent, and he said he is thanking God for the "rich variety" of people he will meet there.
The Pope leaves Friday for a three-day stay in Lebanon.
"I rejoice at this apostolic trip which will enable me to meet many members of Lebanese society: the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, Catholic faithful of various rites, other Christians, and the Muslims and Druze of the region," he said, according to Vatican Information Service. "I thank the Lord for this rich variety, which will be able to continue only if people live in permanent peace and reconciliation."
In this context of "permanent peace," the Pontiff turned his attention to the role of Christians in the Middle East.
He exhorted Christians born in the region and those newly arrived to be "builders of peace and architects of reconciliation."
"Let us pray to God that He may fortify the faith of Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East, and fill them with hope. I thank God for their presence and call upon the entire Church to show solidarity, that they may continue to bear witness to Christ in those blessed lands, seeking communion in unity," the Pontiff said. "I thank God for all the individuals and institutions who, in many ways, help them to do so."
Benedict XVI said that Middle East history reflects the "important and sometimes primordial role" played by Christians in interreligious and inter-cultural dialogue.
"Let us ask God to give that region of the world its longed-for peace, and respect for legitimate differences," he concluded. "May God bless Lebanon and the Middle East. May God bless you."