Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon ended on September 16 at the Beirut airport where he said farewell to President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon, as well as other civil and religious authorities. The pontiff expressed his thanks "to the entire Lebanese people who form a beautiful and rich mosaic and who have shown the Successor of Peter their enthusiasm by the efforts, both general and specific, of each community. I cordially thank our venerable sister Churches and the Protestant communities. I thank in particular representatives of the Muslim communities. Through my stay here, I have noticed how much your presence has contributed to the success of my journey. In these troubled times, the Arab world and indeed the entire world will have seen Christians and Muslims united in celebrating peace."
"It is a tradition in the Middle East to receive a guest with consideration and respect as you have done", he added. "I thank you all. But, to that consideration and respect, you added something else, which can be compared to one of those renowned oriental spices which enriches the taste of food: your warmth and your affection, which make me wish to return. I thank you for that especially".
"In his wisdom, Solomon asked Hiram of Tyre to build a house for the name of God, a sanctuary for all eternity. And Hiram ... sent wood taken from the cedars of Lebanon. ... Lebanon was present in the sanctuary of God. May the Lebanon of today, and her inhabitants, also dwell in the sanctuary of God! May Lebanon continue to be a place where men and women can live in harmony and peace with each other, in order to give the world not only a witness to the presence of God, ... but also a witness to the communion between people, ... whatever their political, social, or religious standpoint".
The Pope continued: "I pray to God for Lebanon, that she may live in peace and courageously resist all that could destroy or undermine that peace. I hope that Lebanon will continue to permit the plurality of religious traditions and not listen to the voices of those who wish to prevent it. I hope that Lebanon will fortify the communion among all her inhabitants, whatever their community or religion, that she will resolutely reject all that could lead to disunity, and with determination choose brotherhood".
"The Virgin Mary, venerated with devotion and tenderness by the faithful of the religious confessions here present, is a sure model for going forward in hope along the path of a lived and authentic brotherhood. Lebanon understood this well when, some time ago, she proclaimed 25 March as a holiday, thus allowing everyone to live more deeply their unity in serenity. May the Virgin Mary, whose ancient shrines are so numerous in your country, continue to accompany and inspire you!
"May God bless Lebanon and all the Lebanese! May He never cease to draw them to Himself so as to offer them a share in His eternal life! May he fill them with His joy, His peace and His light! May God bless all the Middle East!"