Children cross a street near a Lebanese army tank in the Sunni area of Tripoli, Lebanon, Aug. 25. Several people were recently killed in Tripoli in sectarian clashes triggered by the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Pope Benedict is set to visit Beirut Sept. 14-16.

September 10, 2012

When Pope Benedict travels to Lebanon Sept. 14-16 – assuming spillover from the civil war in neighbouring Syria doesn’t force a last-minute cancellation of the trip – his purpose will be above all pastoral.

As usual for papal trips, most of his remarks will focus on the spiritual.

Yet as the Syrian conflict exemplifies, the concerns of Christians in the Middle East are in many respects inseparable from politics; and however diplomatically the pope may word his statements, some will inevitably touch on the region’s political struggles and tensions.

Pope Benedict’s primary reason for visiting Lebanon is to deliver his document of reflections on the 2010 special Synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to Christians in the Middle East.

The pope is also likely to renew his earlier calls for the protection of religious minorities.