Pope Sends Special Emissary to Lebanon
VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II dispatched a special envoy to Lebanon today to examine the conditions of Lebanese Christians and explore possibilities for a peaceful solution to the continuing warfare, the Vatican announced.
French-born Cardinal Roger Etchegary, president of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, was accompanied by three other officials, including the papal nuncio to Beirut, Archbishop Luciano Angeloni.
Etchegary will meet with President Amin Gemayel, Cardinal Antoine Pierre Khoraiche and other political and religious leaders and visit the Christian stronghold of Jezzine in southern Lebanon, the Vatican said.
A statement said the pontiff decided to send the mission ″in response to numerous appeals, both by Christians and Moslems ... inspired by special concern for the Christian population in southern Lebanon.″
It said the cardinal will express the pope’s ″close feeling (for the Lebanese), his solidarity in their suffering and agony and his encouragement that they should not lose hope.″
Several thousand Christians fled to Jezzine, a strategic mountain town 15 miles east of the port city of Sidon, after the Moslems overran a string of Christian villages along the coast and around Sidon in May.
Jezzine is controlled by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army militia, which has defied Gemayel’s order to turn the town over to regular Lebanese army troops.
The Vatican said the cardinal will stay in Jezzine ″for several days.″