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.
Pope Benedict XVI visits Bkerke, Lebanon in September 2012. AFP
Pope Benedict XVI meets Muslim clerics while visiting Michel Suleiman, Lebanon's president at the time, at the Baabda presidential palace in September 2012. AFP
Lebanese Catholics cheer as Pope Benedict XVI arrives at the Maronite Christian heartland of Bkerke in 2012. AFP
A large crowd attends a Mass held by Pope Benedict XVI in the Lebanese capital Beirut in September 2012. AFP
Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd as he arrives to lead an open-air Mass at Beirut's waterfront on the final day of his visit to Lebanon in 2012. AFP
Wafaa, wife of Michel Suleiman, Lebanon's president at the time, receives communion from Pope Benedict XVI during the Mass in Beirut. AFP
Michel Suleiman, Lebanon's president at the time, meets Pope Benedict XVI before he departs Beirut. AFP
Pope Benedict XVI holds an open-air Mass in Beirut on the final day of his 2012 visit to Lebanon. AFP
Jordan's King Abdullah II and his wife Queen Rania give Pope Francis a tour of the Royal Palace in Amman in 2014. AFP
King Abdullah II of Jordan and Pope Francis visit Bethany, a site on the eastern bank of the River Jordan where some Christians believe Jesus was baptised. AFP
Pope Francis visits Bethany in 2014. Some Christians believe it was the site where Jesus was baptised. AFP
King Abdullah II of Jordan, Queen Rania, Crown Prince Hussein, the king's religious affairs adviser, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, and Pope Francis visit Bethany in 2014. AFP
King Abdullah II of Jordan, Queen Rania, Crown Prince Hussein, religious affairs adviser Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad and Pope Francis at the site on the eastern bank of the River Jordan where some Christians believe Jesus was baptised. AFP
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a Mass at the Amman Stadium in 2014. AFP
Pope Francis greets the crowd at the Amman Stadium, where he held a Mass in 2014. AFP
Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he leaves the stadium after holding a Mass during his 2014 trip to Jordan. AFP
Pope Francis kisses a baby before holding a Mass in Amman in 2014. AFP
Pope Francis hugs a boy before holding a Mass at the Amman stadium during a visit to Jordan in 2014. AFP