As president of CNEWA, I was given the honor of participating in the pastoral visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon this past September, when he delivered his exhortation for the church in the Middle East. It was an amazing three-day experience.
The pope arrived with the backdrop of suffering and confrontation. Just a short distance away, Syria’s bitter and bloody civil war raged. But for these three days, everyone in the region, even those in constant conflict, welcomed this humble man bearing a message of peace and good will and inviting all to seek a lasting resolution to the turmoil.
The planning and execution of this series of events was thorough and extremely well done, spearheaded by Patriarch Bechara Peter of the Maronite Church. The welcome from all faiths and political groups was heartwarming and genuine — for three days there was peace and goodwill.
It was uplifting to join the Holy Father with thousands of young people in an event that was part rally, music fest, para-liturgical celebration and personal visit with this loving man in white. In the photo above, you see the young people lifting high the globe as an expression of hope in the love of God. The pope’s gentle style, coupled with a generous mix of humility and wisdom, resonated with the young people and brought them to their feet.
But the high point of his visit took place at a beautiful celebration of Holy Mass with over 400,000 in attendance. The venue for the Mass was a reclaimed garbage dump filled with rubble from the civil war. What a perfect setting over which to place the altar of sacrifice and celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death.
Thanks to your generosity, CNEWA stands in solidarity with the Holy Father in serving the needs of the poor in this part of the world. And the poor of the Middle East remember you in their prayers.