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Pope urges Lebanese not to sacrifice democracy after mass Christian arrests

Pope John Paul spoke out on Sunday against the mass arrests of Christian anti-Syrian activists in Lebanon and called for a strengthening of democracy and plurality in the country.

Saying Lebanon has already suffered from internal divisions, the Pope issued an appeal to Lebanese leaders: "That the values of democracy and national sovereignty not be sacrificed for the political interests of the moment!"

Since earlier this month, the Lebanese army has arrested about 250 Christian activists opposed to Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon where it maintains 25,000 troops. The military accused the activists of seeking to destabilize the country, charges dismissed by the Christian opposition.

The clampdown has raised fears of the large role security services have in Lebanese life and created tensions between the army and the cabinet, which was not informed of the military action.

"A pluralistic and free Lebanon constitutes for the entire Middle East region a richness: let everyone help the Lebanese people preserve it and make it bear fruit," John Paul said.