News from Beirut May 12  1997 ...Search

Pope John Paul II "Great Pilgrimage" to Lebanon


-The apostolic guidance cited six hardships including occupation of south Lebanon, economy, non Lebanese forces, displaced, extremism or fanaticism, and depression. It called for true dialogue with Muslims, respect of the human rights, and total return of sovereignty independence and freedom.

- Great huge euphoria ended his pontiff's visit after his farewell to Lebanon , "St. Mary, bless this people to remain the heir of its great history", he said.

- News agencies said one of every three of Lebanon's 1.5 million Christians went down to the streets to welcome his pontiff, which was a popular euphoria and and unprecedented rare event.

- A leading article said Lebanon's politicians, religious, and popular societies would need too much time to understand and digest the 32 hour visit's symbols and inspirations. It was 32 hours that revealed the enormous and implied varied messages and signals. It has indicated that the Christian public is living an enormous strain that has found the way to surface up during the visit, as his pontiff was received, not only as head of the church but a symbol of the struggle for freedom and independence, and as a historic leader that can release the Christians, and generally the oppressed peoples, of the feeling of isolation, submission and despair.

- His pontiff in two days could release out all the restricted feelings of rejection and challenge, and the tone of the shouts and slogans were tantamount to outcries of pain, appeals for rescue, and an address of rejection.

- What has not been spelled out or named, either in the apostolic guidance or the Pope's sermons, seemed to have been deeply concluded between the Pope and Lebanon's church and its people. The Pope, out of the written text, addressed the youths at Harissa Basilica saying " I followed up your comments, your reaction was in the right place, and you have applauded where your should do ".

The major significant stands of the apostolic guidance were:

-Considering that the most important hardships facing Lebanon are the occupation of south, the economical situation, the existence of non Lebanese armed forces, the displaced issue which has not been yet totally resolved, the danger of extremism, and the impression of some parties that its rights were ignored.

- Emphasizing that "the Christians are looking for a true recognition of  their basic freedoms, a commitment towards their rights and rights of others, also for a justice that consecrates equality of all before the law.

It called the Christians for:

a-To realize the one destiny linking the Christians and Muslims in Lebanon and other countries of the region.

b-The necessity of enhancing common living with the Muslims "in a spirit of openness and cooperation".

c-To indulge in the Christian Muslim dialogue so that "it deals with all  the common life aspects". The dialogue should be pursuant in the daily life, work, and social life.

d-To double fields of cooperation with the Muslims in every possible field.

e-To preserve "links of solidarity with the Arab world and enhance it".

f-To proceed a true, frank, and deep dialogue with the Arab world Muslim believers, in harmony and coordination with the Arab world various Christians.

The apostolic guidance called for:

- Building a political and social just system respecting individuals.

- Emphasized on the just necessity of participating in responsibilities inside the nation.

- Noted everyone has a status in the country, no community can survive if it is not recognized, or living delicate circumstances, or has not the possibility of total partnership in the life of the nation.

- See it is deem necessary that the country regain all its independence, sovereignty, and freedom, without any vagueness.

- Urging the Lebanese authorities and all Lebanese to "work as much they can on respecting fully human rights, especially in the application of justice, and through the guarantees which are right of those under arrest or accused.

- Emphasized that the state of law is not based on force but on the respect of human rights.

- Strongly urged the necessity of conciliation as "the road for peace".

The last day or second day of the short visit was distinguished by the significant mass which attracted the biggest ever recorded crowd in the history of Lebanon. Estimations put it at over half million, with another half million who either could not reach to the site, or stood as human chains along the road from Jouniah stadium to downtown Beirut.

- His pontiff  hilighted the symbolic importance of the mass site "near Beirut history's heart close to the martyrs square which you name it too the freedom and unity square". His pontiff affirmed "the past years pain will not be void and it will strengthen the potential of your freedom and unity".

- The Pope delivered, after the mass, copies of the guidance on Christian religious leaders, clergymen and seculars, as statesmen, ministers and MPs were in the front seats at the mass.

- Following the mass, his pontiff spent two hours at Bkerke, had launch with heads of the Catholic and Orthodox religious communities, and held meeting with heads of the orthodox religious communities at the Vatican mission in Harissa.

- At Beirut airport official farewell ceremony, his message was another expressive one, with further stands on a "new system based on the basic core values, and endeavor to the principal status of the individual and the human groups in the national life and collective decisions. He called "the nations responsible to respect international right, namely in the M.E. region, so that sovereignty of the countries, its legitimate independence, security, right of its peoples and legitimate aspirations, can be restored". He hoped the "continuation of support to efforts seeking a just and permanent peace with determination, courage and harmony".

- President Elias Hrawi, in a message to the Lebanese, after his pontiff's plane took off leaving the country, thanked the Lebanese, namely the young boys and girls, also the security forces which were in charge of security during the visit. Hrawi significantly said "thanks to God that the visit  took place with much more than we have wished, especially regarding the security, as some people have wills that you have heard of, and which with God blessing have evaporated'. Hrawi added "some people far away from Lebanon are still casting doubts on our security. Let Israel leave our land in south and west Bekaa and not launch assaults on us, and demand us whatsoever".

- Prime minister Rafic Hariri described the visit as "historic and it taking place was so good for Lebanon and the Lebanese. The best stand by his pontiff was his emphasis on common living ". He said he is in support of his pontiff's call for a new social system, with more democracy and total independence of the institutions. Hariri has questioned "if talking on a visit by his pontiff to Lebanon was possible in past years'.

- In a preliminary reaction, head of the Muslim Shiite Supreme Council Sheikh Moahmmed Mehdi Shamseddine said "We have no negative remarks on the apostolic guidance, except one on the so called foreign military presence, other than the Israeli occupant forces, and which meant first degree hinting to Syrian army presence. Shamseddine said "aside of this reservation, the guidance document is able to further study and to cooperation on the merits it included'.

- The NLP leader Douri Chamoun reserved the guidance not naming the Syrian forces existing in Lebanon. Chamoun said "that should have not been shy to such extent and the Pope should have said there are Syrian forces existing in Lebanon that should have went out of Lebanon a time ago according to the Taif or else".

- Officially, Syria has dealt with much neutrality with the event issuing no public comment. Syrian official sources briefly hinted to its pure religious aspect denying any confessional aspect as some parties tried to circulate. The sources hoped the visit would achieve its main objectives, namely enhancing national unity and links between Lebanon different religious communities. They hinted to failure of some parties efforts to shift the visit from its goals and exploit it. Syrian media dealt with the visit with same neutrality though it carried its news on first pages but without comment. The common comment in the three leading dailies Tishrin, Baath and Thawra, said the visit is historic and its the first by a Pope to a state in the M.E since 33 years. The three dailies briefly covered the celebrations and festivities if it is to be compared by the too much larger coverage of  the Lebanese media.

- Raymond Edde in a phone call from Paris to a leading daily congratulated the Lebanese of the great day May 11. Edde said "I am more than any other day proud of my being Lebanese. More than half million participated in the mass and not only one slap took place. Once again, I am proud of being Lebanese".

- Lebanese army commander Gen. Emile Lahoud, who participated in the mass together with the chief of the intelligence Brig Michel Rahbani, received congratulations of political and religious leaders on the successful measures taken by the army command during the visit of his pontiff. All praised the coordination between the army different forces, also the accuracy and discipline observed among the armed forces, especially during the drive between the airport and Baabda, and from Jounieh to downtown Beirut.

- Loyals of the Lebanese forces massed up in front of Saydet Najat church at Zouk Mikael since Saturday. On Sunday around 8.00 a.m. their number was estimated by thousands, raising photos of Samir Geagea and banners calling for his release. Army units did not oppose the banners and photos and it was apparent they were ordered not to deal firmly with and only to emphasize on security.

- Some Lebanese dailies describe the euphoria as Christian unprecedented blow up they had never exercised since so many years. In downtown Beirut mass, photos of Samir Geagea, Gen. Michel Aoun, Bashir Gemayel, and flags of the Lebanese forces were raised high in public. The Christian opposition massed up its supporters and opposition figures received by applaud when passing through crowds to participate in the mass.

- Fairouz participated in the mass but did not join the chorus as expected before.

- The foreign press covering the mass centered on Solanje Gemayel, the opposition MPs, and the Iranian ambassador.

- Former prime minister Selim Hoss said his pontiff's words were extremely subjective and his selected words indicated he is well acquainted with the situation in Lebanon and region.

- The Lebanese National Conference (grouping loyal to the Christian opposition) accused the security agencies of arresting some of its members at  Jal El Dib while welcoming the convoy of his pontiff. National news agency quoted security sources denying the event and said the accusation is totally incorrect.

Summary of news

- Speaker Nabih Berri left Sunday evening to Cairo to attend Arab Parliamentary Union 7th conference.

- Prime minister Rafic Hariri is due to leave tomorrow to south Korea in a 3 day official visit. Hariri is the most senior Lebanese official to visit Korea since diplomatic relations established in 1981.

- The files of emigrants attaches, extension of the parliament term, and the Constitutional Council, pending but expected to be resolved in a spirit of comprehension and consensus, hopefully inspiring the Pope visit.

- Ashoura Councils on 5th consecutive day. Shiite Mufti said the future of  the country is unclear and vague.

- Hizbullah official said the living conditions are now beyond red line and Lebanon's foreign debts exceeded $15bn while the marshal plan for Europe after second war reached $14bn.

- The Lebanese Forces Council in a fax said the last sentence on Samir Geagea is a continuation of the policy of oppression.

- Lebanon P.T.T ministry ordered closure of all private telecommunication offices which had been established during the war time.

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