The Pope- or Al Baba as you would call him in Arabic- came to Lebanon last weekend.
I cannot highlight the importance of this event enough, not only for its spiritual value to those who believe in him, but mostly as a reaffirming and unifying statement of the existence of the Christian community in Lebanon. I mean the Pope is “the” guy representing Christianity, and having him in Lebanese territory bears a tremendous symbolic- if not political- weight.
Some of my Christian friends were left indifferent to the Supreme Pontiff’s visit. Some others saw a renewed wave of devotion and faith surge in them, and even lit candles the night he arrived and stuck them in their balconies, as rumor had it that a satellite would take photos that night and the candles would be seen as a physical proof of the presence of Christians in Lebanon. I personally am not convinced that a satellite can capture the light of a candle, but I found the idea very poetic.
The Pope hosted a massive Sunday mass in Beirut’s waterfront, that according to the enthusiastic statistics, gathered 350,000 people. That’s close to 10% of Lebanon's entire population. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.
Downtown Beirut was closed, in what was a very well organized operation, with thousands of people either walking, or taking buses which proudly displayed welcoming messages for the Pope in all languages, even his native German. People gathered since 4 am, to ensure a good spot to catch a glimpse of the Pontifex Maximus. Some asserted they had been “blessed” by his mere sight.
Overall, the Pope's message was one of peace and unity and, although I feared his presence might have been seen by some as a provocation, all sects were very respectful. Covered women and Hezbollah scouts even welcomed him at this arrival.
The Pope came and went, and life in Beirut continued. I wish some of the aftermath had been planned better, as a week later, the only thing left from the memorable visit is the trash generated in the waterfront.
Don't get me wrong, his message of peace and reconciliation remains with us. However, the actual implementation of such well-intentioned advice remains, unfortunately, a miracle we all wish will happen in our lifetime.