In 1510, Pope Leo X thanked Divine Providence for having preserved the Maronite Christians through the hardest of times, “planted among infidels, schismatics and heretics as in a field of error”.
He described them as a “rose among thorns, an impregnable rock in the sea, unshaken by the waves and fury of the thundering tempest”.
Today, more than five centuries later, Pope Benedict will reassert this message in a three-day visit to Lebanon.
His visit comes at a time when Christians in the region feel their existence threatened by the rise of political Islam. It also coincides with violent protests in Libya and Egypt against film, made in the United States, that is insulting to Islam.