A message published by the Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham on the event’s website apparently announcing the Pope’s arrival in Lebanon, disappeared just a few hours later
vatican insider staff
As head of the 1.300.000 diaspora faithful, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Damascus, Gregory III Laham, is a particularly fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause. Just a few hours after Benedict XVI’s arrival in Beirut on 14 September, he will be the first Patriarch to welcome the Pope in his Church, St. Paul’s Basilica in Harissa, for the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East.
Perhaps by mistake, the welcome speech written by the Greek-Catholic patriarch was published ahead of time on the website dedicated to the Pope’s visit to Lebanon (www.lbpapalvisit.com). In the text, after expressing his warm greetings to the Pope, the Patriarch expressly asked him for the Holy See to recognise the State of Palestine: “ a courageous gesture of equality, justice and truth” which would make the Vatican “a pioneer of world justice” and “encourage other European states and beyond to recognise the sovereignty of the Palestinian State.” In his message, the Patriarch claimed that a potential statement from the Pope would represent a “precious gift” to the Arab, Christian and Muslim world, for a real “Arab spring”, “a gift for peace in the Holy Land, the Middle East and the world as a whole.”
The Patriarch has made his position on this known. The fact that the request was not explicitly addressed to the Pope places this gesture outside diplomatic protocol. A request of this kind would lead to the Pope’s visit assuming strong political connotations, which would be completely contrary to the Pope’s intentions. The Holy See’s position is quite another. It is asking the international community to make the first step. In September 2011, speaking at the United Nations in New York, the head of Vatican diplomacy asked for “courageous decision-making.” The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Mgr. Dominique Mamberti, called upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take a decision that would help lead to the concrete achievement of the final objective, that is, the materialisation of the Palestinians’ right to an independent and sovereign State and the Israeli right to security, given that the boundaries of both States are internationally recognized.”
The publication of the message on the web has been a great embarrassment to Rome. “This is the Patriarch’s personal stance,” one Vatican source said, explaining that the message should not have been published before the trip. The document disappeared from speech section of the website dedicated to the Pope’s visit to Lebanon about an hour ago and it now looks highly unlikely that Gregory III Laham will give the speech.