Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Greetings from Beirut! This capital city of Lebanon, the Land of Cedars, was once called the Paris of the Middle East, and it is easy to see why. The beauty of the Mediterranean shoreline, especially noteworthy in Beirut along the Magnificent Corniche, the vastness of mountain ranges, and the cosmopolitan character of Beirut, even though it is still rebuilding from the damages of the 1975 to 1990 civil war. I’ll try in coming days to capture some of what I have seen since my arrival this afternoon after a wonderful flight on MEA, Middle East Airways. I do know what happened to the U.S. ambassador in Libya, and am aware of repercussion in the Middle East in particular, but also around the world. I am posting just a brief note – it is 1 a.m. here – to let people know (some readers have written to me) – that I am safe and sound and looking forward to the next five days. LEBANON DECLARES HOLIDAY TO HONOR PAPAL VISIT Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced that Saturday, Sept. 15 will be an official holiday in honor of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon. He said in a statement that all public administration branches, institutions, municipalities, schools and private and public universities will close on Saturday. Mikati said that because Pope Benedict arrives on Friday, Sept. 14, the official holiday would allow various sections of the population to participate in his visit.
The papal visit is expected to draw large crowds, and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel expressed confidence in the security measures taken to protect the Pope. In remarks to the media, Charbel said extra precautions would be taken due to the Pope’s importance as a spiritual figure and head of the Vatican state.” He gave reassurances that all security forces, including the Army and Presidential Guard, have taken full precautions and plans are coordinated to protect the Pope’s convoy, movements, and where he will be staying.”
Declining to discuss the details of the security procedures, Charbel said they must be kept secret “for the mission to be successful. He said security forces are working with Vatican security and they have established a joint operations room to manage the work of various forces. Calling the security measures unprecedented in “any plan to protect a president or leader visiting Lebanon,” Charbel said this was the case because of the “sensitivity of the current situation.” He added that it is especially important to protect the Pope while he is on the road.
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