Cardinal Paolo Bertoli arrived in Beirut on Wednesday (6 December) at the head of an official Vatican group who planned to assess peace prospects in Lebanon.
Cardinal Paolo Bertoli arrived in Beirut on Wednesday (6 December) at the head of an official Vatican group who planned to assess peace prospects in Lebanon. The cardinal, who is a member of the Holy See's council on social affairs, said on arrival that Pope John Paul the Second had decided to send the special mission to Beirut because of what he called recent "painful events" in the country.
SYNOPSIS: At Beirut's International Airport, a group of dignitaries from several Christian churches awaited Cardinal Bertoli's arrival. He had made a similar mission to Lebanon during the 1975-76 war. The "painful events" he later referred to were the spasms of heavy fighting in past months between Syrian troops attached to the Arab peace-keeping force and the Christian right-wing militia which oppose Syria's role in Lebanon.
Informed sources said the visiting team would talk with various Lebanese factions in the hope of bringing their viewpoints closer together, and it was scheduled to meet President Elias Sarkis. Cardinal Bertoli brought a personal message to President Elias from the Pope, who, the cardinal said, wanted to underline the importance of Lebanon's independence.
Cardinal Bertoli told a news conference at the airport that fighting in Lebanon had brought, as he put it, "so many innocent victims, so many losses". He said that the members of the Christian church around the world were respectful of, and marvelled at, the efforts of their fellow churchmen in the Lebanese conflict. All these factors had weighed heavily in prompting the Pope to send the fact-finding mission there.