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Biondi caught up in Middle East fighting

Rev. Lawrence Biondi (UPI photo/Bill Greenblatt)

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU / AP

St. Louis, MO – The president of Saint Louis University, Father Lawrence Biondi, is in Lebanon, awaiting word on when he can return home to the U.S.

Biondi traveled to the Middle East this week to deliver the commencement address at Beirut's Notre Dame University. That event has since been postponed because of fighting between Israeli and Hezbollah forces.

SLU spokesman Clayton Berry says Biondi is okay and is keeping regular contact with his office.

"Everyone who has spoken to him has said that he feels very safe and secure, he's in very good spirits," Berry said, in an interview. "He's currently staying in a hotel that's located outside of Beirut and has been in contact with the U.S. embassy - he's awaiting their direction about the timing of his return."

Biondi was originally scheduled to return to St. Louis July 25. Berry says Biondi still plans to meet with local Lebanese religious leaders.

The Reverend Andre Mhanna, a Catholic priest from St. Louis, is traveling with Biondi. St. Raymond's Maronite Catholic Parish, where Mhanna is rector, says as of Thursday night, Mhanna reported he was okay.

The Israeli offensive is continuing, with fighter jets targeting the Beirut airport for a second straight day. Residential buildings were also hit.

Three people died overnight, bringing to 61 the number killed since the onslaught began Wednesday. Israel has been retaliating for a cross-border attack in which Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped two soldiers.


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