Pope John Paul II and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will discuss the Middle East peace process during the pontiff's visit to Syria in May, a senior Vatican official said here Saturday.
"The pope will certainly raise (the peace process)" in his talks, said Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for the Holy See's relations with states, following a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Farouq al-Shara.
"I think the pope will speak of the regional situation," Monsignor Tauran said, adding that this could include the question of Lebanon, whose Maronite Christian patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, is a vocal opponent of the Syrian military presence in his country.
Monsignor Tauran said that, during his meeting with Shara, the two had discussed the situation in the region, including the "dramatic situation in the Holy Land," in the context of the pope's upcoming May 5-8 visit.
He said he was unaware of whether Cardinal Sfeir would travel to Lebanon while the pope is there.
The Maronite church is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
The pontiff's visit to Syria is part of a larger trip that will also take him to Greece and Malta on a pilgrimage in the steps of the apostle Paul.
According to the Bible, Paul, who was of Jewish origin, was converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus, where he had a vision of Jesus Christ.
Until that time, he had been a prominent persecutor of Christians, and was on his way to Damascus with an arrest warrant for members of the new faith who lived there.
He is seen as the main architect of the expansion of Christianity with his long journeys in Asia Minor, Cyprus, Macedonia and Greece. He is believed to have been executed in Rome – DAMASCUS (AFP)
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