Middle East Christians must be ‘builders of peace’

Pope Benedict XVI has called upon Christians in the Middle East to work for peace in the region ahead of his visit to Lebanon.

The Pope arrives in Lebanon on Friday for a three-day visit during which he is expected to speak on the conflict in Syria and the exodus of Christians from the Middle East region.

The visit is going ahead despite concerns that the Syrian conflict could spill over into Lebabon.

Speaking at the end of his general audience today, the Pope warned that the “rich variety” of Christians, Muslims and other people of faith living side by side would only continue if “people live in permanent peace and reconciliation”.

“For this reason I exhort all Christians of the Middle East, both those born there and the newly arrived, to be builders of peace and architects of reconciliation," he said.

“Let us pray to God that He may fortify the faith of Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East, and fill them with hope.

“I thank God for their presence and call upon the entire Church to show solidarity, that they may continue to bear witness to Christ in those blessed lands, seeking communion in unity.”

The Pope said the Middle East could teach the world about the important role played by Christians in inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.

“I thank God for all the individuals and institutions who, in many ways, help them to do so,” he said.

The Pope asked Christians to pray that God would bring “longed-for” peace to the region and that the people there could respect “legitimate differences”.