Saint Maron - Vatican Basilica
This visit is also in response to your own visits to Rome in November 2008, and more recently in February 2011, a visit which was followed nine months later by that of the Prime Minister.It was during the second of our meetings that the magnificent statue of Saint Maron was blessed. His silent presence at the side of Saint Peter’s Basilica is a constant reminder of Lebanon in the very place where the Apostle Peter was laid to rest. It witnesses to a long spiritual heritage, confirming the Lebanese people’s veneration for the first of the Apostles and for his successors. It is in order to underline the great devotion to Simon Peter that the Maronite Patriarchs add Boutros to their first name. It is wonderful to see how, from that Petrine sanctuary, Saint Maron intercedes continually for your country and for the entire Middle East. Let me thank you in advance, Mr President, for all that you have done to make my stay among you a success....I offer fraternal greetings to all the Bishops of Lebanon, as well as to those who have travelled to pray with me and to receive this document from the hands of the Pope himself. Through them, I send fatherly greetings to all the Christians of the Middle East....[R]eason must overcome one-sided passion in order to promote the greater good of all. Did not the great King Solomon, who knew Hiram, King of Tyre, consider that wisdom was the supreme virtue? This is why he pleaded to God for it insistently, and God gave him a wise and intelligent heart (1 Kg 3:9-12).I have also come to say how important the presence of God is in the life of everyone and how the manner of coexistence, this conviviality to which your country wishes to bear witness, will run deep only if it is founded upon a welcoming regard for the other and upon an attitude of benevolence, and if it is rooted in God who wishes all men to be brothers. The celebrated Lebanese equilibrium which wishes to continue to be a reality, will continue through the good will and commitment of all Lebanese. Only then will it serve as a model to the inhabitants of the whole region and of the entire world. This is not just a human task, but a gift of God which should be sought with insistence, preserved at all costs, and consolidated with determination.The links between Lebanon and the Successor of Peter are ancient and deep. Mr President, dear friends, I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men. Christ says, سَلامي أُعطيكُم, “My peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). And looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs. To them too Christ says: سَلامي أُعطيكُم. Your joys and sorrows are constantly present in the Pope's prayers and I ask God to accompany you and to comfort you. Let me assure you that I pray especially for the many people who suffer in this region. The statue of Saint Maron reminds me of what you live and endure.Mr President, I know that your country is preparing a fine welcome for me, a warm welcome, the welcome that is given to a beloved and respected brother. I know that your country wishes to be worthy of the Lebanese Ahlan wa Sahlan [welcome]. It is already so, and from now on it will be so even more. I am happy to be here with you. May God bless you all. (لِيُبَارِك الربُّ جميعَكُم) Thank you.
September 14, 2012