ROME — The Melkite Greek Catholic Church leader will ask the pope to recognise the Palestinian state when he arrives next week for his first visit to Lebanon, a country riven by religious rivalries, a Catholic website said Thursday.
Patriarch Gregory III Laham, the spiritual head of Lebanon’s second largest Catholic community, will be the first to address the pope during a welcome ceremony near the Lebanese capital and insist on the large role of the Palestinian cause in the Arab world,
The website “www.lbpapalvisit.com” has already published the speech Gregory III is to make at the Melkite Greek Catholic basilica of St. Paul in the mountain village of Harissa on the outskirts of Beirut, said I.MEDIA news agency which is close to the Vatican.
Gregory will thank the Holy See and its leaders for their “firm and unwavering position on the (Palestinian) cause”.
He will also ask the Holy See to “recognise the Palestinian state in compliance with the resolutions and decisions of the international community and international law”.
The recognition, which the patriarch called a “courageous step of fairness, justice and truth”, would allow the Holy See to remain a “pioneer of world justice” and prompt European and other countries to follow.
It would also “be a guarantee for the solution of most of the very complex problems of the Arab and Muslim world” and stop the emigration of Christians from the region.
The Melkites are an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Vatican.
During a meeting in the Vatican last year Benedict XVI and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said there was an “urgent need” for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Any resolution to the conflict would have to respect the rights of all parties including through “the attainment of the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations for an independent state”, a statement said at the time.
They also reiterated “that soon the State of Israel and the Palestinian State must live in security, at peace with their neighbours and within internationally recognised borders”.
The Middle East peace process has been a constant concern for the pope, who called for the creation of two states during a visit to the region in 2009.