Lebanese Prime Minister Invites Pope for Visit

VATICAN CITY (AFP) — Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati during a visit to the Vatican on Monday invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit Lebanon next year, an aide from the prime minister’s office said.

Mikati’s office in Beirut said in a statement that the visit would take place in the autumn but Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said only that the pope had received the invitation and has “shown an interest” in visiting.

Mikati communicated the official invitation from President Michel Sleiman.

The Vatican did not say whether the pope would accept the invitation but informed sources said a trip is being planned by the Vatican in April in which the pope would present Middle Eastern bishops with an “apostolic exhortation”.

The document represents the conclusion of a Middle Eastern synod in 2010 that emphasised the defence of Christian minorities in the Middle East, which have been emigrating for economic reasons and due to pressure from Islamists.

The meeting between the pope and Mikati, a Sunni Muslim accompanied by several members of his family, lasted around 20 minutes.

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