A month after the devastating explosion that struck Beirut, Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting for the country on September 4, Friday.
“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. (Read: Pope Francis Leads Prayers for Victims of Lebanon Explosion)
“Lebanon cannot be abandoned in its solitude,” says Pope Francis, reiterating the 1989 appeal of Saint Pope John Paul II. He described Lebanon as a country of hope and expressed admiration for the people’s faith and how the country was able to make itself a “place of tolerance, respect, and coexistence unique in that region”.
Pope Francis further said that Lebanon is “a message of freedom and an example of pluralism, both for the East and for the West.” He appealed to not let this legacy be lost due to the ongoing crisis in the country. (Read: A Powerful Prayer in Times of Crisis)
According to reports, Lebanon has been experiencing the worst economic and political crisis in its history, and this triggered widespread anti-government protests last year. Today, nearly half of the country’s six million people are living below the poverty line—analysts say this could be worse than the 15-year civil war from 1975 to 1990.
In the wake of this devastating news, Pope Francis has called on Lebanon’s political and religious leaders to commit themselves with sincerity and openness to rebuilding the nation, set aside all partisan interests, and look to the common good and the future of the country’s people. (Read: Catholic Organizations Team Up to Help Victims of Lebanon Blast)
The Pope also encouraged all Lebanese people “to persevere in hope and to summon the strength and energy needed to start anew,” specifically urging the country’s pastors, bishops, priests, the consecrated, and laypeople to serve the faithful with apostolic zeal, poverty, austerity, and humility. “Help your faithful and your people to rise up and be protagonists of a new rebirth,” he said.
Closeness and Solidarity
Lastly, the Holy Father asked the international community to show support to Lebanon through concrete works of charity. He said that he intends to send Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Lebanon to express the pope’s “spiritual closeness and solidarity” with the Lebanese.