Pope Benedict XVI called for unity and reconciliation in the Middle East during his visit to Lebanon over the weekend.
“May God grant to your country, to Syria and to the Middle East, the gift of peaceful hearts, the silencing of weapons and the cessation of all violence,” the pope said in a prayer at an open-air Mass in Lebanon on Sunday.
About 350,000 people attended the Mass, according to a Reuters report.
“I appeal to the Arab countries that, as brothers, they might propose workable solutions respecting the dignity, the rights and the religion of every human person,” the pope said.
“In a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary,” he added.
The Reuters report noted that the pope did not make any reference to a film made in California which has caused unrest across the Muslim world, including a protest in north Lebanon on Friday.
“I was able to see, during all my visit, how much your presence contributed to the success of my voyage,” he told Arab leaders during departure ceremonies on Sunday.
“The Arab world and the whole world will have seen Christians and Muslims united in this troubled time to celebrate peace,” the pope said.
The faithful who attended the Mass were grateful for the pope’s visit.
“It’s a good chance to reflect on the things like sectarianism and extremism, things that we all need to work to change about ourselves in this region,” Reuters quoted Eli Baalina, 17, a Lebanese Maronite.
“[The pope's] message is to give us pride and encouragement that it is worth the effort to work for coexistence and understanding,” said Maronite Silva Mansour.
The pope arrived in Lebanon on Friday amid protestsin several Arab nations over a US-made video posted on the Internet that ridiculed the prophet Muhammad.
The Los Angeles Times, however, said the pope’s presence in Lebanon was warmly embraced by all religious factions.
Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim militant group labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, lauded the papal visit as “extraordinary and historic.”
The pope, calling himself a “pilgrim of peace,” noted that the Middle East “seems to endure interminable birth pangs” but also “saw the birth of great religions and noble cultures.”