Pope Benedict XVI, in Lebanon, Makes Plea for Religious Freedom – NYTimes.com

The leader of the Catholic Church (and governmental head of the Holy See, an independent state and member state with observer status at the UN) visits Lebanon, a place where he sees “an example of diversity and mutual coexistence for the Middle East and the world”:

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday implored young Christians not to emigrate from Lebanon, saying they were “meant to be protagonists” as the country moved forward, and urging them to forge closer bonds with Muslim youth.

via Pope Benedict XVI, in Lebanon, Makes Plea for Religious Freedom – NYTimes.com.

Also interesting is that the Holy Father called sending weapons to Syria “a grave sin.”


7 thoughts on “Pope Benedict XVI, in Lebanon, Makes Plea for Religious Freedom – NYTimes.com”

  1. At a time when fierce accusations and senseless violence seem to characterize much of the Middle East, it is strangely fitting that such a prominent religious figure should be the voice of moderation, religious freedom, and greater cooperation between peoples and faiths.

    Speaking of the Middle East, one journalist wrote that “these are people who were born and raised in dictatorships. They are accustomed to thinking that a government controls its citizens — that a film or documentary cannot be produced without government approval. For decades, this has been the reality of their lives, and they strongly believe that the Western world and its citizens have a similarly controlling relationship between individuals and government.” One would hope that a visit from the Holy See himself, seen as a representative of Christianity, would do much to assuage the volatile feelings in the region. The fact that the Pope took time to address such topics as drugs, pornography, and social media in such a fatherly way will hopefully do much to diffuse the heightened level of sensitivity to the even the slightest offense and bring much needed peace this this war-torn area.


  2. This message should resonate with latter-day saints. It has all the factors of a talk given at general conference. 1. In the world but not of the world. 2. Build Zion where you are. 3. Be a good citizen to make things better. 4. Be the light. 5. Outreach to other faiths to build bridges. 6. Avoid addictions like drugs, pornography, and overuse of social media. 7. We know things are tough- God has not forgotten you and neither have we. http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/priesthood-power?lang=eng&query=%22not+of+the+world%22

    In a more secular perspective, this is a wonderful display of positive influences from religion on the world. Too often we attribute religion as the ill of conflict. While many studies point at religion as a precipitant to conflict, other studies have pointed out that religion is not necessarily the reason for conflict, but is used as a spark and a mobilization unit. Once conflict is started along religious lines, religious sentiments can embolden conflict and make it more intense. For these reasons, it is nice to see leaders of other faiths/churches encouraging bridge building between peoples/nations/ethnic groups and religions.

  3. This trip is very interesting. The bulk of Christians in that area are not even Catholic, but are Orthodox. If one knows the history between the two faiths, one would know the two are either close or world’s apart. In recent years the Catholic Church has tried hard to repair the historical damage the Orthodox has suffered by the Roman Church. The two slowly drifted apart due to theological differences, but the tie was cut over the authority of the Pope over 1000 years ago. To make matters worse, during the Crusades, a Catholic army sacked Constantinople and took much of their riches. As I mentioned the Catholic Church has tried to repair this history. Pope John Paul 2nd (the greatest Pope in my opinion) apologized for the past and welcomed the Orthodox back into the fold. However, the Orthodox Church did not take up this invitation. I see this visit as a continuation of this repairing. Since Vatican 2, the Church has made great effort in interfaith dialogue. Since the Pope is the single most powerful and influential religious leader in the world, it sets a good example for other faiths to stop bickering and come together.

    If you want to read the Homily, or for those who are LDS is would be considered a “talk”, the full text can be found here.

  4. The timing of the trip is also very interesting. The attacks in response to the “Innocence of Muslims” in Lebanon on a KFC and a Hardee’s occurred just a few hours later. Because of this the pope’s security was tightened and the visit restricted to certain areas of Lebanon. When asked, the pope said he never considered canceling the trip because of security reasons. The newly erupted violence makes his call for peace and cooperation between religions in the Middle East all the more appropriate.

    Hezbollah’s reaction to the pope’s visit was interesting as well. Hezbollah is a Shiite group that the US considers a terrorist organization. Their leader called the pope’s visit “extraordinary and historic” (Huffington Post). The Vatican spokesperson declined to comment on the Vatican’s position on the group and did not rule out a meeting between the pope and some supporters of Hezbollah.

  5. With the current violent sentiment of protestation that exists in many Muslim populated middle eastern countries toward the United States, the visit of the Pope to Lebanon certainly is a significant occurrence at this time. It is a special thing that his message was one of unity, hope, encouragement, and acknowledgement. Certainly a morale boost to a group of individuals who find themselves in a part of the world where significant unrest, and fury is targeted at the United States, a country that is home to more than 77 million Catholics and is considered a Christian nation. It could be that MIddle Easter Christians are often grouped into this hatred because of their religious beliefs that are associated with a nation that is seen as an enemy to many; and the Pope’s message is comforting to them.

    Looking further into Christianity in the Middle East, I came across this article:


    I found that though the Pope calls for unity between the Christian and Muslim faithful, and their leaders, there seems to be a lack of unity amongst Catholics themselves in the region. Though I am not an expert on Christianity, and certainly not privy on its proliferation and operation in the Middle East, the article states that it is a religion that is on the rise, not the decline. I feel that as it is a growing theological belief in the Middle East, relations between non-Christians and Christians could only become more solid as the unity inside Catholics and Christian groups was more stable.

  6. This reminds me a lot of the call by President Hunter (I’ve heard of it since, as I was not born at the time of the address) that “If a bridge is ever built between Christianity and Islam it must be built by the Mormon Church”. Running away from problems with Muslims caused by misunderstanding and distrust is not the solution. Discussion and cooperation can really change the way the West views the Middle East. Growing up, my high school was about 10% Muslim and I had a lot of friends that were Muslim. It is a beauty religious of peace and I try to do my best to build that bridge.
    For more info, check out http://sethadamsmith.blogspot.com/2012/08/are-muslims-lamanites.html

  7. I am in agreement that this is strongly resemblant to the church’s stance of spreading the gospel, and starting that with bridging the gaps between the church and other religions. It also can be likened to the concept of the churches evolving stance of zion, with a few minor differences. The Christians of the middle ages, after gathering to escape persecution, sent out a force of crusaders instead of a force of missionaries. Now that the catholic church is established, the clergy realizes that they can not shrink back to a central location without losing membership and more importantly losing the christian fellowship that has been established. The church realizes that zion cannot be established if members continue emigranting to Utah from their homes.


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