Pope Benedict XVI has urged Middle Eastern Christians and Muslims to forge a harmonious, pluralistic society in which the dignity of each person is respected and the right to worship in peace is guaranteed.

Speaking to political and religious leaders on the second day of a three-day trip to Lebanon on Saturday, he stressed that people must repudiate vengeance, acknowledge their own faults and offer forgiveness to each other.

"We run the risk of being enslaved by an economic and financial mindset, which would subordinate 'being' to 'having'."

- Pope Benedict XVI

Thousands of people, mostly Christians came to catch a glimpse of the pope as he headed to the presidential palace.

Among them were Egyptians, Iraqis, Jordanians and Palestinians who came to witness the first papal visit to Lebanon since the late John Paul II came in 1997.

The 85 year old pontiff, first met President Michel Sleiman, a Maronite Christian.

Then, before talks with the Muslim leadership, he met Prime Minister Nagib Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a Shia.

'Rejecting revenge'

Those who desire to live in peace must have a change of heart, Benedict said, and that involves "rejecting revenge, acknowledging one's faults, accepting apologies without demanding them and, not least, forgiveness."

He said the universal yearning of humanity for peace can only be realised through community, comprising individual persons whose aspirations and rights to a fulfilling life are respected.

Lebanon is a multi-faith country in which Muslims make up about 65 per cent of the population and Christians the balance.

The pope came with a message of peace and reconciliation both to Lebanon and to the wider Middle East, which have been torn by violence, often sectarian, over the years.

The pope said the conditions for building and consolidating peace must be grounded in the dignity of man.

Poverty, unemployment, corruption, addiction, exploitation and terrorism "not only cause unacceptable suffering to their victims but also a great impoverishment of human potential. We run the risk of being enslaved by an economic and financial mindset, which would subordinate 'being' to 'having'," he said.

Without pointing fingers, he said "some ideologies undermine the foundations of society. We need to be conscious of these attacks on our efforts to build harmonious coexistence."

The pope's outreach to Muslims came amid violent protests in the region over an anti-Islam video deemed disrespectul to the Prophet Muhammad. 

The pope will return to Rome on Sunday after celebrating an open air mass at Beirut City Centre Waterfront.

Source: Agencies