On the last day of the Pope Benedict’s visit to Lebanon, he celebrated an open-air mass in front of around 350,000 pilgrims, as well as politicians from all sectors of the multi-faith country.
The pilgrims had come to Beirut from across the Middle East, where the service was held at an altar built on land reclaimed with debris from Lebanon’s 1975-1990 sectarian civil war.
The crowd cheered and waved Vatican as well as Lebanese flags as the Pope gave a speech in which he appealed for tolerance and religious freedom and for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims.
These have been the central themes of the visit which comes amid soaring sectarian tensions in the region, exacerbated by the conflict in Syria.
The pope also called on Christians not to leave the region despite war and growing pressure from radical Islamists.