Volume 2 No.2 April 1998
May 10th marks the first anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Lebanon and his signing of the Apostolic Exhortation. This historical document encompasses the Pontiff's views on the status of the Catholic Church in Lebanon and the Church's role in establishing sincere, friendly relations among the different religious communities in Lebanon.
This landmark document is a breakthrough, not only in the Vatican-Lebanon relations, but, more importantly, in the Vatican's profound understanding of the plight of the Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East.
No other document in the history of Vatican-Lebanon relations is more meaningful and timely than the Apostolic Exhortation.
The Apostolic Exhortation seems, at first glance, to be a publication of interest only to Church and government authorities. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Apostolic Exhortation is of vital interest to all who are concerned with the future of the Christians in Lebanon.
The major focus of the Exhortation is to encourage the Lebanese to accept their pluralism and from this acceptance devise a new mode of living together in freedom, mutual respect and dignity. It calls upon Lebanon to be an example of conviviality among the religious communities, to become an example, a model for other nations of the region to imitate.
Another principal message of the Exhortation is its call to the Christians to remain steadfast in their belief and culture for they are an integral part of Lebanon's mission. Furthermore, their land is sacred because "their ancestors were among the crowds which surrounded Jesus to listen to His teaching" and because the Redeemer of all mankind walked upon Lebanon's soil and His eyes admired its beauty.
The Apostolic Exhortation is an abundant source of thoughts, of innovative approaches and of attainable propositions for Lebanon and its entire people. Antoine Najm in the feature article has examined this document in detail, especially to learn its views on "al-'Aysh al-Mushtarak" --conviviality ["living together"].
Mr. Najm shows us that the diagnosis and remedies in the document result from a profound understanding of the complex situation in Lebanon. The solutions proposed by the Holy See are non-intrusive.
The analysis of the issues and the solutions offered are courageous. Here, we witness the Holy See in its quest to help Lebanon and its Christians.
While the Apostolic Exhortation recommends cures for the problems faced by the entire Lebanese people, those who are responsible for these problems are relentlessly citing wrong diagnoses of and wrong remedies for the problems.
Guita G. Hourani