Pope Benedict XVI met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora today amid continued violence in the Muslim world over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.
The two met for about 20 minutes in private in Benedict’s library before they were joined by Siniora’s 12-member delegation, which included his wife and several Lebanese ministers.
Muslims make up at least 60% of Lebanon’s estimated 3.5 million population, with the remainder Christian. The Maronite Catholic Church, which numbers about 900,000, is the largest Christian denomination and is highly influential in the country’s politics.
Lebanon’s president must be a member of the Maronite church, while the prime minister, Siniora, and the parliament speaker are Muslims – a division that reflects the country’s sectarian makeup.
The Pope has singled out Lebanon in some recent speeches, including his Christmas Day message in which he said that signs of hope in the country, as well as in Iraq and the Holy Land, needed to be “confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom”.