Pope Francis appeals for Lebanon during the General Audience on September 2, 2020 (CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters)
One month after a massive explosion at a fertilizer storage facility tore through Beirut and reopened Lebanon’s old wounds, Pope Francis expresses his and the Church’s solidarity with the troubled nation and calls for a worldwide day of prayer on Friday, 4 September.
September 2, 2020
Pope Francis on Wednesday called for a day of prayer and fasting on Friday for Lebanon. Besides the deadly explosion of 4 August in Beirut, the nation has been going through the worst economic and political crisis in its history.
“One month after the tragedy that struck the city of Beirut, my thoughts turn once again to Lebanon and its people, so sorely tried,” the Pope said during his weekly General Audience. He called a Lebanese student priest with a flag of his country to stand next to him.
Freedom and pluralism
Reiterating the 1989 appeal of Saint Pope John Paul II he said, “Lebanon cannot be abandoned in its solitude.” Holding the corner of the Lebanese flag as a gesture of his closeness with the Middle East nation, he described Lebanon as a country of hope and expressed admiration for the people’s faith in God and their ability to make their country a “place of tolerance, respect and coexistence unique in that region”.
Lebanon, the Holy Father said, is “a message of freedom and an example of pluralism, both for the East and for the West”. “For the good of the country and the world, we cannot let this legacy be lost,” he said, alluding to the long-drawn crisis in the country.
Even before Covid-19, Lebanon was undergoing the worst economic crisis in its history, which triggered large-scale anti-government protests last year. Today, nearly half the country’s 6 million people are living below the poverty line. Analysts warn that the scale of the catastrophe may be worse than the 15-year civil war, which raged from 1975 to 1990.
Appeal to political and religious leaders
Pope Francis encouraged “all Lebanese to persevere in hope and to summon the strength and energy needed to start anew.” He particularly urged “political and religious leaders to commit themselves with sincerity and openness to the work of rebuilding, setting aside all partisan interests and looking to the common good and the future of the nation”.
The Holy Father asked “the international community to support Lebanon and to help it emerge from this grave crisis, without becoming caught up in regional tensions”.
He exhorted the people of Beirut to take courage and find strength in faith and prayer. “Do not abandon your homes and your heritage. Do not abandon the dreams of those who believed in the dawn of a beautiful and prosperous country. ”