Pope calls for religious freedom in Middle East

By Victor L. Simpson

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 15 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Lebanese protesters attack American fast food restaurants after Friday prayers, pouring petrol on the restaurants and setting them on fire in the northeastern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday Sept. 14, 2012. According to security officials no one was hurt in the attack which is part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo)

The Associated Press

BEIRUT — Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for religious freedom in the Middle East, calling it fundamental for stability in a region bloodied by sectarian strife.

The pope spoke Saturday at the presidential palace on the second day of his visit to Lebanon, the country with the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East.

He said religious freedom was a "fundamental right" and held up Lebanon as an example for coexistence in the region.

Enthusiastic crowds lined the streets and cheered along the 30-kilometer (20-mile) motorcade route to the palace as Benedict went by in the bullet-proof glass popemobile. Soldiers on horseback rode ahead of the car.

Benedict arrived in Lebanon Friday amid a wave of violent protests across the Middle East over an anti-Islam film.

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