Rome, 17 Nov. (AKI) – Pope Benedict on Monday urged national unity in conflict-scarred Lebanon. During an audience with Lebanon’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Georges Chakib El-Khoury, Benedict said he hoped the Lebanese people "may courageously continue their efforts to build a united and solidary society."
"The millennial history of the country, and the place it occupies at the centre of a complex region, give it a fundamental mission to contribute to peace and harmony among everyone", Benedict (photo) continued. Describing Lebanon as a "treasure that has been entrusted to all the Lebanese people" the Pope urged the international community to "protect and value the country," preventing it from becoming a proxy battlefield where "regional and global conflicts are played out." The election of a new president of the Republic, the formation of a government of national unity and the approval of a new electoral law over the past six months "will favour national cohesion," Benedict stated. "I hope that, leaving particular interests to one side and healing the wounds of the past, everyone will make an effective commitment to the path of dialogue and reconciliation so that the country may progress in stability."

The Pope identified education as a key to this process. "It is necessary to promote and develop true education for peace, reconciliation and dialogue, directed above all at the young generations," he stated. Lasting peace, "is the profound aspiration of all Lebanese," Benedict said, adding that the Vatican "always follows events in Lebanon very closely." El-Khoury, a law graduate, was an investigating judge in Lebanon between 1993 and 2000 and headed the Lebanese army’s information office from 2005-2008, the Vatican said.