Pope Francis invites Lebanese Christians to Vatican in July

Pontiff plans to hold a day of prayer for peace and stability for the crisis-stricken nation

Pope Francis waves from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St Peter's Square.  AFP 
Pope Francis waves from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St Peter's Square.  AFP 

Pope Francis has invited representatives of Lebanon’s Christian community to the Vatican on July 1 for a day of prayer and reflection “about the worrisome situation in the country”.

The pontiff announced the encounter during his Sunday noon blessing, saying the aim was to “pray together for the gift of peace and stability”.

He asked for prayers before the meeting and for Lebanon itself so the country could enjoy “a more serene future”.

Lebanon has for months been enduring an unparalleled financial, economic and political crisis, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. Pope Francis met Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri at the Vatican in April and urged all Lebanese political leaders to “urgently commit themselves to the benefit of the nation”.

According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president has to be a Maronite Christian and the Parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim, while the prime minister has to be a Sunni.

Because of political deadlock, the country of 6 million has been without a government since the Cabinet resigned days after a massive blast at Beirut’s port on August 4 killed more than 200 people, wounded more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighbourhoods.

The national currency has lost nearly 85 per cent of its dollar value since late 2019, sending the prices of basic goods soaring in a country that depends on imports.

During his meeting with Mr Hariri, Pope Francis reaffirmed his desire to visit Lebanon as soon as conditions permitted. The July 1 meeting will be an opportunity for the pope to express his solidarity, given that a visit in the near future is not possible.

Updated: May 30, 2021 05:00 PM

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