Last updated: 11 September, 2012

Pope to stay clear of Middle East politics on his visit to Lebanon

Pope Benedict XVI will not intervene politically in the Syrian crisis during his visit to the Middle East this week or tell Catholics where their alliances should lie, the Vatican said Tuesday.

“The pope will not present himself as a powerful political leader” or make “big speeches of a political nature” when he travels to Lebanon on Friday for a three-day trip, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said at a press conference.

While the 85-year-old pontiff is likely to call for an end to violence in Syria and express concern for Christians caught up in Arab Spring uprisings, he will not comment on political differences between Lebanon’s Catholic groups.

“The pope does not have concrete, specific guidelines for Christians,” Lombardi said in reference to Lebanon’s large Maronite Catholic community which is divided over support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels.

Religious pluralism will be one of the main themes of the trip and Benedict will meet representatives from Lebanon’s four main communities — Shiites, Sunnis, Druzes and Alawites — who will welcome him on his arrival on Friday.

Lombardi said there would be no specific meeting with the militant Islamist group Hezbollah, but members would take part in the Muslim delegations.