Pope brings message of peace to West Asia

Pope Benedict XVI Friday described himself as a “pilgrim of peace” and called for an end to the civil war in Syria.

Starting his three-day visit to Lebanon on Friday, the pope said: “I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men.” The first pope to visit the country in 15 years, Benedict described the Arab Spring as “a desire for more democracy, for more freedom, for more cooperation and for a renewed Arab identity”. “Let me assure you I pray especially for people who suffer in this region,” he said.

The pontiff said Syrian arms imports were a “grave sin” and called for an end to the conflict. He praised Lebanon, which has 18 different religious groups, as an example of religious “coexistence”. “The successful way the Lebanese all live together surely demonstrates to the whole Middle East and to the rest of the world that, within a nation, there can exist cooperation between the various Churches... coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions,” he said.

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