Pope Benedict begins trip to Lebanon amid Mideast protests, violence
POSTED: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 3:30pm
UPDATED: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 3:34pm
CNN — Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday for a previously scheduled trip as anti-American protests and violence spurred by an anti-Islamic film roiled the Mideast, including in Lebanon.
Police killed one person in Tripoli, Lebanon, on Friday after a group of armed men stormed a restaurant amid protests in the city, Lebanese security forces told CNN.
"I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men," Benedict said in a public address Friday afternoon at Beirut's airport, where he was greeted by Lebanese President Michel Sleiman.
"Looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs," Benedict said as he began a three-day trip to Lebanon.
About 40 armed men were spotted among hundreds of protesters in Tripoli on Friday, Lebanese officials said.
Anti-American rage sparked by an online film that insulted Islam's prophet boiled over Friday among Muslims in at least half a dozen countries, as the United States stepped up security at diplomatic posts across the Middle East.
Aware that protests were planned for Friday -- the Muslim holy day -- the United States beefed up security at its embassies and consulates across the Middle East.
The unrest began Tuesday when outrage over a 14-minute, American-made online video that mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer sparked riots at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four America consulate staffers were killed, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
U.S. officials suspect that a group sympathetic to al Qaeda used the protests over the film as cover for the complex and well-coordinated attack on the consulate.
In Lebanon, Benedict praised the Lebanese people for providing a model on how believers of various religions could coexist peacefully, calling it an "equilibrium" that is "extremely delicate."
"Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan, even selfish, contrary and extraneous to Lebanese harmony and gentleness," Benedict said.