THE LIFTING of the threemonth-old siege of the Lebanese
city of Zahle gave the signal for 'an end to a protracted protest demonstration by about 30 priests and religious.
They had resolved to remain on the road to the presidential palace outside the Lebanese capital of Beirut until the siege was brought to a close. Earlier, police had forced them to disperse from outside the palace itself. Since then they had remained on the road, praying, singing hymns and saying Mass.
The agreement on Zahle came just two days after Pope John Paul had reiterated his personal concern for Lebanon in his eight minute taped message to pilgrims in St Peter's Square, Rome.
He said: "My thoughts turn to the Lebanon so sorely tried and especially to the city of Zahle. I know that meetings are continuing to bring about peace to the people of that nation which has suffered for so long."
He said that he had never stopped praying for Lebanon during his time in hospital and concluded: "I ask everyone to pray to Mary that the peace initiatives are acceptable."
The country has been the scene of bitter fighting between
several Christian and Muslim factions. The conflict has been exacerbated by the involvement of outsiders — the Syrians, the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Despite Tuesday's agreement to end the siege of Zahle the situation in the country remains extremely serious. All agreements in the past have proved extremely fragile.
In Beirut, meanwhile, the Christian area of Achrafie is reported to be "dead": most of the shops are closed.