Beirut – Lebanese President Michel Aoun continued on Thursday his official visit to the Vatican, where he held talks with Pope Francis I during which he asked the Pontiff to support Lebanon on the regional and international scenes.
Discussions on the second day of his trip focused on the situation in the Middle East, particularly that of Christians, most notably those in Syria, Palestine and Iraq. Talks also addressed Lebanon’s efforts to combat terrorism.
Aoun said: “The Lebanese people, both Christian and Muslim, are united in tackling terrorism.”
“Some differences in positions reflect political disputes, not religious ones,” he explained.
These disputes are handled through constitutional and legislative means, said the president.
“Lebanon’s Christians and Muslims have coexisted for centuries and they have built a united civilization” that has allowed both sides to realize that they are “brothers and partners”, Aoun stated.
“Respecting diversity and the right to be different are the noblest images we can present to the world,” he stressed.
He remarked that Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim communities allow it to become “a center for the dialogue of civilizations and religions.”
Aoun asked the pope to continue on supporting Lebanon on the regional and international levels, while the pope said that Lebanon “holds a special place for the papacy.”
The Pontiff expressed his relief that Lebanon has restored the functioning of its constitutional institutions since the election of Aoun as president in November 2016.
He informed Aoun and the accompanying delegation that he will soon pay a visit to their country.
Aoun had also met during his Vatican visit with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Talks focused on Lebanon, regional developments and various fields of cooperation between Beirut and the papacy.