Lebanon kidnappings scare off tourists but 85-year-old Pope still plans to come
Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon next month will go ahead as scheduled, the Vatican said on Monday, despite tensions in the country linked to the raging conflict in Syria.
"The preparations for the visit are going ahead without any uncertainty on the part of the Vatican," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters.
Lombardi cited as evidence the September 14-16 trip would go ahead the fact that the pope's special car – the "popemobile" – was on its way to Beirut.
The growing political tensions in Lebanon led to speculation last week that the trip may be canceled.
Lebanon has been battling to contain an eruption of violence triggered by events in neighboring Syria, including a spate of mass kidnappings that recalled the dark days of the country's own civil war.
Several oil-rich Gulf countries have ordered their nationals to leave the country in the face of threats, particularly against Saudis and Qataris whose governments are staunch opponents of the Syrian regime.
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to bring a message of peace for the Middle East on his three-day trip.
The 85-year-old German pontiff is scheduled to meet with President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati on September 15.
The highlight of the visit is expected to be the pope's message of peace at an open-air mass on September 16 at the downtown Beirut waterfront.
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