BEIRUT - The head of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic church, Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, prayed in an old Damascus church on Saturday for an end to Syria's civil war.
Rai, whose church has 900,000 members in Lebanon, a quarter of the country's population, is on the first visit to Syria by a Maronite Patriarch since the independence of neighbouring Lebanon in 1943.
His visit comes at a time when Christians in the region feel under threat from the rise of political Islam.
Few Christians have supported the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fearful for their future if the country's majority Sunni Muslims choose an Islamist leadership to replace decades of ruthless but secular Assad family rule.
"(I pray) that the consciences of local, regional and international leaders are inspired to put an immediate end to the war in dear Syria ... and bring peace through dialogue," he told dozens of worshippers inside the church.