Pope in Beirut: Stop the war, stop importing weapons

Lebanon land of martyrdom and cohabitation, President Sleiman

14 September, 15:40

(ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, SEPTEMBER 14 - "Arms imports to Syria must be stopped," the Pope Benedict XVI told reporters en route to Lebanon for a three-day papal visit on Friday.

"The war can't be stopped unless the weapons imports, which are a grave sin, are stopped. People should be importing creativity and ideas of peace, not arms," the pontiff said.

He was met on the runway by Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, a Maronite Catholic, while the city's church bells pealed out their welcome along with a 21-gun salute. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Shiite, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a Sunni Muslim were also part of the welcoming delegation.

"We must make respect for each others' religions visible, to help stop the violence and start rebuilding the country," said the Pope. "Fundamentalism always falsifies religions, because God invites us to create peace in the world. The duty of all faiths is to create peace." Asked whether he considered putting off his trip given recent tensions and unrest, the pontiff answered that on the contrary, "The thought never crossed my mind. The more complicated the situation, the more crucial it is to transmit hope for peace, brotherhood, and friendship." Asked about the plight of fleeing Syrian Christians, Benedict XVI said that "Not only Christians are fleeing, but Muslims as well. But the danger that Christians are fleeing from is also great... Everything possible must be done for people to stay. Everyone's help is essential." "Lebanon is a land of martyrdom but also one where different communities live together. It is a model of cohabitation," Sleiman said in his welcome address. "Christians have had their roots in this country and throughout the region for centuries, and will continue to send the message of cohabitation." The president also spoke at length about the ongoing drama of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The Pope, now on his 24th foreign mission, remains in Lebanon through Sunday. (ANSAmed).

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