POPE ENCOURAGES LEBANESE

Vatican (CWN) May 2, 1997-- As he prepares for his pastoral visit to Lebanon, Pope John Paul II today issued a message to the people of that troubled country. The Pontiff expressed the hope that the Lebanese could "find in the love of your country the energy necessary to conquer divisions and to overcome all the obstacles that face you."

The Pope encouraged the Lebanese people toward "national reconciliation and social reconstruction," insisting on the unity of the country and the "intense collaboration" which he said is required to reach that goal. He called for "an ever more profound conversion of hearts and minds."

Conscious of the happy traditions of Lebanese hospitality, the Holy Father expects a warm welcome, and communicated in advance his "deep affection" for the Catholics there, along with the members of other religious communities. He thanks the bishops and patriarchs of the country for their invitation, and mentioned that his pastoral visit to Lebanon is one that he has been looking forward to for some time.

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