Pope: Lebanese presidential vote 'crucial' for survival

Calls on leaders to set aside personal interests for the sake of common good.

pope prays 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
pope prays 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday described Lebanon's approaching presidential elections as crucial to the nation's survival and called on leaders there to set aside personal interests for the sake of common good. Rival factions are deadlocked over the choice of candidates, two weeks before the current president has to step down, and a lawmaker has urged the head of the influential Maronite Catholic Church to bring together Maronite leaders with the aim of finding a compromise. Under Lebanon's political system, the president should be a Maronite. The church fears a power vacuum could threaten the Maronites' hold on the post. "As the numerous initiatives of these days show, it's a crucial passage, upon which depends the very survival of Lebanon and its institutions," Benedict said. Speaking to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, Benedict said he shared the desire of Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head of the Maronite Church, that "all Lebanese can see themselves (represented) in the new president." He prayed that "all interested parties ... take the necessary distance from personal interests and have true passion for common good." Lebanon's parliament speaker on Saturday postponed the elections for the third time to give the deadlocked factions more time to come up with a compromise candidate. A September session failed to reach quorum because of an opposition boycott, and an October attempt was postponed as negotiators struggled to find a compromise candidate. There has also been a flurry of diplomatic activity, reflecting concern that failure to elect a president could result in rival governments or a power vacuum.