Details have been released on Pope Benedict's Sept. 14-16 visit to Lebanon, where the pontiff is slated to sign his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in the Middle East.
The document will be the Pope’s response to the deliberations of the Synod of Bishops of the Middle East held at the Vatican in October 2010. The topic for discussion then was “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.”
Pope Benedict will arrive in the Lebanese capital of Beirut at 1:45 p.m. on Friday Sept. 14 where he will be welcomed at an official ceremony at the city’s Rafik Hariri Airport.
From there he will travel to the Basilica of St. Paul in coastal town of Harissa, 12 miles to the north of Beirut. Here, in the presence of the episcopate of the Middle East, the Pope will sign his Apostolic Exhortation.
On the morning of Saturday Sept. 15 Pope Benedict will pay a courtesy visit to President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon at his official residence in the city of Baabda.
At the same location, the Pope will then meet with representatives of the country’s majority Muslim population before giving an address to the Lebanese civil society.
He will then have lunch with, among others, the patriarchs and bishops of Lebanon at the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate in Bzommar.
In the early evening Pope Benedict will then travel onto Bkerke where, at 6:00 p.m., he will deliver an address to young people gathered in the square in front of the residence of the country’s Maronite Patriarchate.
On the morning of Sunday Sept. 16 the Pope will celebrate and outdoor Mass the City Center Waterfront in Beirut. It is here that he will officially present his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation to the Church in the Middle East. Proceedings will conclude with the praying of the Angelus.
Pope Benedict’s last public engagement in Lebanon comes in early Sunday evening when, at 5:15 pm, he will preside at an ecumenical gathering in the Syro-Catholic Patriarchate of Charfet. He will then depart from the airport in Beirut for Rome at 7:00 p.m.
Lebanon has a population of just over 4 million. It is estimated that around 39 percent of Lebanese people are Christian with many belonging to Eastern Catholic churches that are in full communion with Rome.