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Vatican briefing stresses complex history of Beirut

September 13, 2012

In a briefing released in advance of the Pope’s trip to Lebanon, the Vatican has provided a brief backgrounder, emphasizing the complexities of the country’s history and its current Catholic affairs.

Lebanon has seen a succession of Muslim, Christian, and mixed regimes, with different religious groups generally living together in harmony since the country gained independence in 1943. But Lebanon has also suffered the effects of the tensions that have swept the Middle East, especially during the civil war of the 1980s, the Vatican briefing notes.

While Maronite Catholics exercise enormous influence in Lebanon, other Eastern Catholic churches are also very active in the country. In the area of Beirut alone there are eparchies, or dioceses, for 5 different Catholic churches (Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Syriac, and Chaldean) along with a smaller vicariate for Latin-rite Catholics. As John Allen points out in his own backgrounder for the National Catholic Reporter, relations among the Catholic churches have not always been smooth. One important goal of visit by Pope Benedict XVI will be to encourage cooperative action among the Catholic leaders of Lebanon.


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