Pope to visit Lebanon September 14-16: church official

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VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI will visit Lebanon in September to preach peace and unity for Christians in the Middle East, a senior religious figure said Friday a day after meeting with the pontiff.

“The pope will come to support Christians so that they are united,” said Gregory III Laham, the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, adding that the visit would take place Sept. 14-16, the I.Media religious news agency reported.

Benedict will also bring a message of “peace in the Middle East,” where violence has raged in Lebanon’s neighbor Syria for a year and efforts to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict are as mired as ever, he said.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati invited the pontiff to visit in November last year during a visit to the Vatican.

The trip will mark the second to the region for Benedict, who visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories in 2009.

Patriarch Gregory, who is headquartered in Damascus, heads the second-largest Catholic community in the Middle East, with some 700,000 followers in Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan and Syria.


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