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SUMMIT-LEBANESE Jul-27-2006 (450 words) With photos posted July 26 and 27. xxxi

Lebanese delegation leaves Rome peace summit disappointed

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- The Lebanese delegation to the Rome conference on peace in the Middle East left disappointed with the international community, but grateful to the Vatican and to Catholics praying for peace.

After attending the conference, Tarek Mitri, an Orthodox Christian and Lebanese culture minister, joined the lay Community of Sant'Egidio July 26 for its daily evening prayer at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

After the prayer, he told Sant'Egidio members, "I came to Rome with my prime minister to participate in this important meeting of solidarity and in search for a resolution to this conflict.

"We came looking for peace, but it did not happen," he said.

"So, I came here to pray with you, seeking peace in our souls, because without peace in our souls, we will not find peace in the world," Mitri said.

"At a time when my country is shattered, when Israel is trying to destroy my country, we count on your prayers," he said. "Once again, we will rebuild our country, but we need the support of a spiritual force, which comes with prayer."

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora led the Lebanese delegation and, in an emotional plea to the 18 foreign ministers and international representatives participating in the summit, he asked for an immediate cease-fire.

Siniora asked the leaders: "Is the value of human life in Lebanon less than that of citizens elsewhere? Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?"

More than 400 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Lebanon since Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers July 12.

After the conference, which promised only to work toward conditions that would allow a cease-fire to hold, Siniora met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican foreign minister.

Archbishop Lajolo, who was an observer at the international conference, told Vatican Radio July 27 that Siniora "expressed great appreciation for the commitment with which the Holy Father personally and the Holy See are following the conflict," and he asked the Vatican to continue supporting Lebanon in the international arena.

"He also recalled the words of Pope John Paul II who defined Lebanon not only as a country, but as a 'message' for all peoples of a balanced coexistence among peoples of different religions and confessions," the archbishop said.

"That certainly is the historic vocation of Lebanon, which it must be able to realize," Archbishop Lajolo said. "The Holy See will continue to do everything possible to help the country go back to being 'the garden of the Middle East' that it once was."


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