(NEW YORK) — Pope Benedict XVI will be just 30 miles from a major war zone starting Friday.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church has no plans to cancel his three-day visit to Beirut, Lebanon, even as fighting between government and rebel forces continues to rage in neighboring Syria.
Benedict’s mission is ostensibly to preach peace between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon although it’s certain he will address the violence in Syria, which has cost tens of thousands of lives since President Bashar al-Assad ordered a crackdown 19 months ago on opponents seeking democratic reform.
While security surrounding the pontiff will be especially tight, some of the fighting in Syria has spilled over across the border into Lebanon.
Loyalties are divided in Lebanon, with Sunni Muslims supporting the rebels forces seeking to depose al-Assad while Shiite Muslims back the current regime.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, Zayn Nabbi, Euan McKirdy and Angela Dewan, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN