Thousands of pilgrims arrived at St. Peter's Square yesterday to attend the beatification of father Naamatallah Hardini.
During the mass, Pope John Paul II stressed "the blessed Hardini is a sign of hope for every family especially the young". He called Lebanon "the land of saints" and asked that Lebanon remain a land of peace and brotherhood.
The ceremony was attended by president Elias Hrawi and his wife Mona, the prime minister's wife Nazek and a delegation of ministers and MPs. Lebanese bishops, including cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, were there around the altar.
Thousands of Lebanese who came from many different countries were there; at least 6.500 had come from Lebanon.
The mass included Maronite liturgy and carols, presented by the choir of the Universite' Saint Esprit, Kaslik.
Cardinal Sfeir gave a description of Hardini's life and the pope listed the qualities of Hardini, on the basis of which he declared him beatified.
The pope gave communion to selected people among the crowd, including Andre' Najem, who claims to have been miraculously cured from cancer by Hardini's intervention.
The ceremony was followed by a lunch provided by the Lebanese Maronite order in honor of Hrawi.
Meanwhile, in Lebanon, mass festivities took place as thousands of worshippers converged on the site containing the remains of father Naametallah Hardini at the Saint Quorbanios and Youstinia monastery in the northern village of Kfifan over the weekend.
They sang along with a choir of monks during mass, waved flags and banners and cheered at every available opportunity. Many of them spent hours in Kfifan in spite of the bad weather and all revealed high emotions on this holy occasion.
Two significant meetings highlighted Hrawi's second day in Italy: one with the pope and another with Maronite patriarch cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir.
The president said his discussions with the pope focused on the situation in the south in light of the recent Israeli offer of a conditional withdrawal.
The president's meeting with Sfeir seems to have ended the nearly two months of tension between the two. The tension began with Sfeir's criticism of the president's civil marriage proposal.
Prime minister Rafik Hariri is in Syrian for talks on the deadlock peace process. The prime minister had held similar talks last night with French president Jaques Chirac in Paris. Hariri did not meet UN secretary general Koffi Annan in Paris.
The UN office said the meeting was called off because the prime minister had to return to Beirut. The premier told reporters a meeting with the UN chief was not planned in the first place.
House speaker Nabih Berri this morning visited the presidential palace and held talks with president Elias Hrawi. No statement was made after their 45-minute meeting. But the sources said the official discussed the upcoming local elections.
At the Summerland hotel on the final day of the fourth annual Arab capital market conference, prime minister Rafik Hariri told an audience of more than 500 Arab bankers that "a series of bureaucratic regulations needs to be rectified so that investors can do business in Lebanon." Hariri also pledged new incentives to attract badly needed investments for reconstruction.
The premier also hinted that the government may review some of the taxes on the ownership of properties by foreign investors. He added that he would do his best to give special incentives for foreign businessmen seeking to launch commercial or industrial projects in Lebanon.
Interior ministry director-general Atallah Ghasham guaranteed on Saturday that elections will be "100 per cent error-free" and that polling stations heads would be severely punished for any mistakes they make.
Ghasham made the remark at the conclusion of nation-wide seminars for 10.000 public employees who will oversee polling stations. This Ghasham considered as "the biggest mobilization campaign in the country's history".
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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