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.