Last night, Pope Benedict XVI ended his Apostolic Journey to Lebanon. The last official appointment of his schedule was the Farewell Ceremony at Beirut's International 'Rafiq Hariri' Airport in the presence of the four Patriarchs, religious representatives and civil authorities, including the President of the Republic
Seàn-Patrick Lovett from Vatican Radio reports:
Departure speeches can often be very formal and simple expressions of gratitude to the host nation and its religious and political authorities. But Pope Benedict's farewell to Lebanon was something more: "I leave with regret", he said. Referring to "one of those renowned oriental spices which enriches the taste of food", the Pope said the special warmth and affection people had added to the consideration and respect traditionally offered all guests visiting the Middle East, made him wish to return.
In thanking all the people of Lebanon for both their cordiality and enthusiasm, the Pope made special mention of the Muslim communities. He noted how their presence contributed to the success of his journey, and said: "In these troubled times the Arab world, and indeed the entire world, will have seen Christians and Muslims united in celebrating peace".
His final words to the country, and to the whole of the Middle East, were to courageously resist "all that could destroy or undermine peace" and "to permit the plurality of religions traditions and not listen to the voices of those who wish to prevent it". In fact, the Pope said he was grateful for all the encounters, official, festive and religious, he had enjoyed and for the prayer offered by all and for all - "whatever their origins or religious beliefs".