The Muslim hierarchy lined up to shake the papal hand, the Christians were reminded that Christ taught in Tyre and Sidon, and they were told by their Pope that “insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, rejoice because the spirit of God rests upon you.” But this was not what they wanted to hear.The few Maronites who chanted for the release of Dr Samir Geagea, the Christian Phalangist militia leader imprisoned for civil war murders – shouting “Hakim, Hakim” (Doctor, Doctor) in front of the altar – were not going to make any difference. But the Pope belongs to a different religion whose separation of theology and politics – “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” – has never been truly understood by the Maronites. Yes, he told the student mass at the mountain of Harissa, he understood the frustrations of Lebanese Christians. But they must work for the future of Lebanon and rebuild their country.
The message was simple: the Catholic church supported the total independence of Lebanon – but the Christians should stop complaining. “The best thing said was by that boy at Harissa,” a middle-aged Christian woman told me as we pushed our way through 300,000 Maronites at yesterday morning’s papal mass at what had been Beirut’s front line during 16 years of civil war. Be our cry of unhappiness and carry our voice to the whole world.”
But Pope John Paul II did not oblige the Lebanese student. There was no direct criticism of Syria, or of the thousands of troops it keeps in Lebanon, or of the domination which it exercises over the Lebanese government.
His response told the whole story of his visit to Lebanon. Thanks to Kenneth Clarke, the previous chancellor, Britain is already lined up to meet the criteria.
The most crucial deadline now facing Britain is the obligation, contained in the Maastricht treaty, to “notify” its partners of whether it intends to join the first wave of Emu by the end of this year. Decisions on which countries can join on 1 January 1999 are to be taken in early May next year, under the British presidency.The Government is unlikely to focus attention on its decision until next month’s Amsterdam summit on European political reforms is safely behind it.. to say those things which we fear to say and which we have lost the habit of saying,” Pierre Najm pleaded with the Pope “Be our courage and name things by their real name. Beirut – “We ask you … He will also consider a plan for a new exchange rate mechanism (ERM 2) which countries outside the first wave are to join.