“Levantine Christians look forward to this trip with hope, to ensure that Lebanon remains a powerful model for the East and the world.”
President Michel Aoun departed Wednesday morning to the Vatican. He arrived with the Lebanese first Lady Nadia al-Shami Aoun, and the accompanying delegation, to the Ciampino military airport in Rome dedicated to the reception of heads of state, on an official visit to the Vatican.
The Lebanese President is set to meet with Pope Francis, as well as Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
President Aoun, and the Lebanese first lady and the accompanying delegation were greeted upon arrival at the airport by the Apostolic Nuncio Monsignor Francesco Kanalin, representing the Hole See, Pope Francis, and Bishop Christophe pastor of the Holy Apostolic See, as well as the representative of Lebanon’s Embassy to the Vatican Albert Samaha, and the acting representative of Lebanon’s Embassy in Italy Karim Khalil, the representative of the Maronite Patriarchate to the Holy Apostolic See Bishop Francois Eid, the Catholic Patriarch Father Mtanios Haddad, and the representatives of various religious orders and the Lebanese seminaries accredited in Rome: Monsignor Antoine Gebran, Father Maged Maroun, Father Elias Zakhia, Father Miled Tarabay, Father Suleiman Abi Zeid, and the judges Monsignor Abdo Yaacoub and Mgr Antoine Choueifaty.
The President expressed his happiness to be in Rome stressing on the importance of his meeting with the Pope in light of the deep relationship the Lebanon and its diverse Christian population holds with all the religious leaders, stating that the papal seat holds a special place in the heart of every Lebanese citizen, for they have seen the support given to Lebanon provided by those in charge during all of the hard times. The Lebanese from all different sects were always confident that the apostolic seat was always keeping an eye on them and surrounding them with caring and love, and ensuring their unity and ventures to the safeguarding of their territories.
“I carry a message of love on behalf of all the Lebanese,” President Aoun said upon his arrival at the Rome Ciampino airport, adding that ”Lebanon that has recovered walks on the path of unity and is looking forward to again play its role in the region and the world as an area of convergence and respect for the right of diversity, in a world that today desperately needs to be walking the path of peace, and building bridges of convergence rather than walls of separation between peoples and nations.”
The President considered that Christian of the Levantine who lives today in difficult conditions across the East, the cradle of Christianity and Islam, looks forward to this visit with the hope of confirming that Lebanon is an example of coexistence despite the odds, and the strongest model for the future of both the East and the world.
After a short break in the VIP lounge, the President of the Republic went to his residence in the Hotel “Excelsior- West Inn” in the Italian capital, where he immediately held a business meeting with his top aides, to see the final arrangements for the program of meetings with His holiness Pope Francis, which will begin tomorrow.
Translated by Hala Hayek