Sat 25th Oct 2014 | Last updated: Fri 24th Oct 2014 at 18:39pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Latest News

Pope tells Middle East Christians: ‘Your sufferings are not in vain’

By on Sunday, 16 September 2012

Benedict XVI arrives in the popemobile to celebrate Mass (CNS)

Benedict XVI arrives in the popemobile to celebrate Mass (CNS)

Benedict XVI has told Christians in the Middle East that their “sufferings are not in vain”.

The Pope made the comment today at a Mass attended by at least 350,000 people at Beirut’s city centre waterfront.

“Remain ever hopeful because of Christ,” he said.

In his homily, Pope Benedict commented on the day’s reading from the Gospel of St Mark, in which Jesus foretells his death and Resurrection. Jesus is a “Messiah who suffers”, the Pope said, “a Messiah who serves, and not some triumphant political saviour”.

Speaking in a region riven by sectarian politics, where party loyalties are often determined by religious affiliation, the Pope said that people can invoke Jesus to “advance agendas which are not his, to raise false, temporal hopes in his regard”.

Pope Benedict told his listeners, whose travails of war and economic insecurity he had acknowledged repeatedly throughout his visit, that Christianity is essentially a faith of redemptive suffering.

“Following Jesus means taking up one’s cross and following in his footsteps along a difficult path which leads not to earthly power or glory but, if necessary, to self-abandonment, to losing one’s life for Christ and the Gospel in order to save it,” he said.

Yet Pope Benedict also cited another of the day’s Mass readings, the Epistle of St James, to emphasise the spiritual value of “concrete actions” and works, concluding that “service is a fundamental element” of Christian identity.

Addressing a region where Christian-run social services, including schools and health care facilities, are extensively used by the Muslim majority, the Pope stressed the importance of “serving the poor, the outcast and the suffering” and called on Christians to be “servants of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East”.

“This is an essential testimony which Christians must render here, in cooperation with all people of good will,” Pope Benedict said.

During the homily, the only sound was the Pope’s voice and its echo from the loudspeakers. Many people leaned over and bowed their heads with eyes closed, so they could concentrate more deeply.

Following the Mass, the Pope formally presented patriarchs and bishops of the Middle East with a document of his reflections on the 2010 special Synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to the region’s Christians. In the 90-page document, called an apostolic exhortation, the Pope called for religious freedom and spoke of the dangers of fundamentalism.

Sheltered from the sun only by white baseball caps and the occasional umbrella, people had already packed the city’s central district by 8 am, almost an hour-and-a-half before the Pope arrived in the popemobile, which took him to the foot of the altar. In temperatures that rose into the high 80s, the Pope celebrated Mass under a canopy while bishops and patriarchs on either side wiped their brows and fanned themselves with programmes.

Aside from the complimentary white caps, people in the crowd improvised versions of sun protection with torn pieces of corrugated boxes tied around heads and papal and Lebanese flags worn as bandanas.

George Srour, 38, estimated that 20,000 people came from Zahle in a convoy of chartered school buses, leaving at 5 am for the 10 am Mass.

“We Christians must be united and participate” in the Pope’s visit, Mr Srour told the American Catholic News Service, “otherwise there will be no more Lebanon. It will become like Iraq, and now Syria, with all the Christians leaving.”

  • chiaramonti

    God bless our Pope, the great the good.

  • Sweetjae

    Long live the Pope!

  • AnthonyPatrick


  • Furry Animal

    I’m a little confused. Is the pope calling for people to be free to practice Islam, a religion who’s sacred text says the idea of God having a son is “an atrocious thing”? I do wish that people would realise that “religious freedom” will lead to “freedom” from religion when they are all reduced to relativistic lifestyle choices and the supreme authority of any one is denied. Peace comes from pact, agreement, common belief, not from obsequience to heresy!

  • Guest

    I also appreciated seeing images of the fine Basilica visited by Pope Benedict. Among many other Lebanese cultural riches, the ancient Christian Maronite songs performed by music professor, Ghada Shbeir, are a heritage for the world.

  • Cestius

    Of course people should be free to practice Islam if they wish.  Jesus can only win souls by free will and love, He cannot coerce or force people to follow Him, and as a consequence they are free to follow any other religion if they so choose.  All that our pope can do is to proclaim and the message of the holy Gospel about Jesus’s love for us and His resurrection. Which he does very well.  He can sow seeds, but it is Jesus that reaps the harvest.

  • Furry Animal

     I recall a time when heresy was condemned rather than accepted :-/

  • JabbaPapa

    The condemnation of religious freedom amounts to a condemnation of the infallible and indefectible dogma of Free Will.

    Also, you should not confuse lack of Christian faith with heresy.

  • Furry Animal

     It in no way condemns any such dogma. Religious freedom is saying that you can practice any religion you want without interdiction, yet for centuries the church strictly condemned both heresy (within the church) and paganism (without it)….but now we are supposed to ignore those who were martyred in this cause and make pally with Islam despite it calling the idea of God having a son “an atrocious thing”?

    Christ has ALL authority on earth (as well as heaven, obviously), the Church is the body of Christ on earth and we are told to teach people to do as Christ commands us to do.

  • JabbaPapa

    If you deny the dogma of Free Will, you are not just non-Catholic, you’re non-Christian … but you simply do not understand the doctrine of religious freedom.

    Fundamentally, it is a dogma stating that our freedom to become Catholic Christians is inviolable.

  • Furry Animal

     I am not speaking of free will. I’m speaking of Religious Freedom; as in the freedom in society to practice the heretical and the satanic. To suggest that it is “non-Christian” to speak against heresy and to say that we should not interdict such goes against the church’s practice for 2000 years.


    What his His Holiness said was:

    freedom is the pinnacle of all other freedoms. It is a sacred and inalienable
    right. It includes on the individual and collective levels the freedom to
    follow one’s conscience in religious matters and, at the same time, freedom of
    worship. It includes the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be
    true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public. It
    must be possible to profess and freely manifest one’s religion and its symbols without
    endangering one’s life and personal freedom. Religious freedom is rooted in the
    dignity of the person; it safeguards moral freedom and fosters mutual respect.
    Jews, with their long experience of often deadly assaults, know full well the
    benefits of religious freedom. For their part, Muslims share with Christians
    the conviction that no constraint in religious matters, much less the use of
    force, is permitted. Such constraint, which can take multiple and insidious
    forms on the personal and social, cultural, administrative and political levels,
    is contrary to God’s will. It gives rise to political and religious
    exploitation, discrimination and violence leading to death. God wants life, not
    death. He forbids all killing, even of those who kill (cf. Gen
    4:15-16; 9:5-6; Ex 20:13).”


    p.29 [I.26]

    But he also wrote:

    know that only Jesus, who passed through sufferings and death in order to rise
    again, is capable of bringing salvation and peace to all who dwell in your part
    of the world (cf. Acts 2:23-24, 32-33). Him
    alone, Christ, the Son of God, do we proclaim! Let us repent, then, and be
    converted, “that sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come
    from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20a).”


    p.14 [I.8]

  • JabbaPapa

    The dogma of Free Will is not the easiest to understand.

    Religious freedom is directly related to this particular necessity.

  • Parasum

    Religious freedom in its perverted modern sense – the bogus “freedom” to practice a religion other than that revealed in Christ – is the moral equivalent of arson, theft or adultery. There cannot be a freedom to defy & disobey God. That is a satanic doctrine, plain and simple.

    But this is the abomination too many Catholics – to say nothing of others – try to defend. 

    There is a difference between:
    1) possessing the faculty of free will; 
    2) using this faculty rightly according to the light one has;
    3) using it rightly in the light of Christian revelation. 

    And though it is physically possible to man to use FW to propagate a false religion, it is objectively an abuse of FW to do so; for we have no theological  or moral right to follow a religion that is not in accord with that revealed  in Christ. It is possible to follow a false religion without incurring guilt for committing what objectively is the sin of so doing – but subjective freedom from blame does not mean the false religion followed is not false.  

    It is essential to hold that the Catholic Faith is the only true Faith, and that to reject it is to risk damnation. There is and can be only one Faith, one Church, one Baptism – just as there is and can be but One God, One Christ, One Spirit. one economy of salvation, one covenant  between God & men, One Mediator between God & man, one Calvary, one Incarnation, one Passion of Christ, one Resurrection of Christ. 

  • JabbaPapa

    The doctrine of religious freedom does NOT claim that false religions are anything other than false.

    You are accusing the doctrine of wrongs that quite simply do NOT belong to it.

    There cannot be a freedom to defy & disobey God.

    As I said, “the dogma of Free Will is not the easiest to understand.”

    In fact, Free Will precisely and explicitly includes the freedom to defy & disobey God.

    Genesis {2:15} Thus, the Lord God brought the man, and put him
    into the Paradise of enjoyment, so that it would be attended and
    preserved by him.

    {2:16} And he instructed him, saying: “From every tree of Paradise, you shall eat.

    {2:17} But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat.

    {3:6} And so the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and beautiful to the eyes, and delightful to consider. And she took from its fruit, and she ate. And she gave to her husband, who ate.


    Of course, it is never moral, or licit, or justified to do so (as you yourself have quite eloquently pointed out) — although God may in His Sovereign Mercy forgive us our trespasses — but it is a false doctrine to claim that disobedience towards God is some sort of satanic doctrine, whereas in fact it is in the very nature of our human condition, and it is integrally a part of our being in our Original Sin, and we have all of us, every single one of God’s creatures with the single and solitary exception of Saint Mary, committed such defiances and disobediences against God in our own lives.To deny this truth is to at least partially deny Free Will, Original Sin, and the associated Catholic moral teachings.


    It is possible to follow a false religion without incurring guilt for committing what objectively is the sin of so doing

    No it isn’t.Following any false religion is objectively a personal sin, and a mortal sin.That God may *forgive* people for that sin in various cases determined according to His Will alone is a doctrine of the Faith — but that does not mean that no guilt is attached to those who may belong to those religions.

  • Snowdrop

    It would be so nice if the pope taking on the mantle of Jesus Christ just spoke the truth as it is and did not wrap himself and his belief in so much protocol that only the elite have the faintest clue what he is on about