News from Beirut May 10 1997 ...Search

Pope John Paul II Visit To Lebanon

Observations- Remarks

-Pope John Paul II arrived on time today to Beirut. He was received with the customary protocol given to heads of states including national anthems of the Vatican and Lebanon and salute.

- In a surprise gesture, Baabda palace celebrated his pontiff's 77th birthday before leaving to Bkerke. A cake with the design of the Vatican colors was served while the presidential guard played the music for the occasion.

- The Pope received at Baabda Muslim senior religious figures including Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, Imam Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine, and head of the Druze religious appeal court Sheikh Mercel Nasr.

- Observers noticed that 90 per cent of the Lebanese welcomed his pontiff. Muslims in the predominantly Shiite southern suburbs stood along the airport road where women threw rice and flowers on his convoy. Muslims of the western sector of Beirut welcomed his pontiff along the road of Tayoneh and Omar Beyhoum street including students of the Makassed schools. At Furn Chebback and Chevrolet the crowds were incredibly massive and enthusiastic.

At Baabda palace the reception was a Lebanese typical welcome including folk dance and "Sayf Wa Tors" demonstration. Estimation of the people welcoming his pontiff along the 17 Kms drive from the airport to Baabda was put at tens of thousands if not more. It is the biggest ever crowds that went to the streets in Lebanon and an unprecedented one.

Excerpts of president Hrawi speech upon the arrival of his pontiff

- "Since 7 years we are transforming from strife to peace, from destruction to rebuilding, and the great achievements that took place was based on the will of common coexistence".

- "The repatriation of the displaced was an evidence of the Lebanese deep rooted values. Lebanon is country of values not terminologies".

- "Lebanon is the country of living together, taking decisions together and making achievements together".

- "The strife is behind us and our future is our national peace"

- "You will see no destruction but you will see a country emerging out of debris"

- "Lebanon is young though its history is far long. It is a truth".

- "Lebanon is living the nightmare of assaults in south and west Bekaa"

-"We shall build the civil state and for all also fight against fanaticism, illiteracy".

-"Lebanon is grateful for your consistent effort on implementing the 425 resolution. Lebanon is with peace in the region and implementation of the UN resolutions, also with the principle of land for peace, but what is a peace if it does not lead to liberation of land".

- "Lebanon is part and a pioneer in this orient".

Excerpts of his pontiff speech upon arrival

- "Everyone is invited now to volunteer for peace, conciliation, and takes initiative of forgiveness, in order to serve the national society, so that violence  do not overcome dialogue, and hatred  not to overcome the brotherly love".

-"In the new Lebanon you are now rebuilding, there is a place for every national, namely those wishing to join in the political action and the economical life".

- " I am coming to celebrate with you the final stage of the Synod, and I am conveying to the catholic church, other churches, and all of good will, the apostolic guidance hopefully to be a new aspiration for Lebanon'.

- "The document I am going to sign is not a conclusion and not a final clause, it is a course of action and effort, it is a call to all Lebanese to open a new page. The document is for the unity and for overcoming splits among all the churches and for the unity of the country".

- The schedule of the visit included 6 stages, the airport, Baabda palace, Bkerke, Vatican mission, Harissa-Basilica, Sunday mass at downtown Beirut, and departure.

- His pontiff stopped only 10 minutes at Bkerke, following his arrival there coming from Baabda palace on board of an Italian helicopter which is serving with the Italian contingent in the UNIFIL. Lebanese army helicopters escorted his chopper all the way from Baabda to Bkerke, where he went to the Vatican mission at Harissa.

- At his fourth station today His pontiff arrived 7.15 p.m. this evening (local time) to Harissa Basilica , after around two hours rest at the Vatican mission. He was welcomed cheerfully with great enthusiasm by Lebanon's youths, estimated by tens of thousands. Speaking to greatly emotional massive crowds of youths out of the Basilica His pontiff said "out of the schedule, I wished to speak to you out of the Basilica, and since the weather is hot, I may propose to have the meeting with you out in the open air". Minutes later, the schedule was changed and his pontiff started to address the youths on time from a stand out of the Basilica. Following an address to the youth he came in to the Basilica.

- Patriarch Sfair has been very close escorting his pontiff all the time during all the day's stations.

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