By Vatican News
Pope Francis, during the Wednesday General Audience, called for a universal day of prayer and fasting on Friday for Lebanon, in the aftermath of the deadly 4 August explosion at the Beirut port, as well as the ongoing economic and political crisis in the country.
The Pope also announced he would send Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Lebanon as his representative “to be present with its people” and to express his “solidarity and spiritual closeness.”
Ahead of the day of prayer, Cardinal Parolin met Thursday with the Lebanese Bishops, representatives of different religious communities, and humanitarian organizations at the St. George Maronite Cathedral in Beirut.
Solidarity with Lebanon
Addressing the religious leaders during the meeting, Cardinal Parolin explained that his visit was “to express the nearness of the Catholic Church throughout the world.” He pointed out that the Pope’s appeal for a day of prayer generated immediate responses from all over the world. “You are not alone!” he said, assuring Lebanon’s leaders.
He also called on the nation’s political leaders, urging them to “foster the talents of young people and their aspirations for peace and a better future,” adding that only together can we “defeat all forms of authoritarianism by promoting inclusive citizenship based on the respect of fundamental rights and duties.”
“Our suffering can help us purify our intentions and strengthen our resolve to live together in peace and dignity, to strive for a better governance that favors responsibility, transparency and accountability,” he said.
Pointing out the unique value of Lebanon – a part of the Holy Land that was visited by Jesus, His apostles, and Our Lady, Cardinal Parolin reminded the religious leaders that they have a “primary mission to give hope to an afflicted population, to honor and serve our brothers and sisters in humanity, starting with the most vulnerable.”
He concluded by encouraging the many “beautiful” examples of solidarity already happening all over Beirut, and appealed to the international community to not leave Lebanon alone, as the world “also needs the unique ongoing experiment of pluralism, living together in solidarity and freedom that is Lebanon.”
Find strength to set out again
At a Mass celebrated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, on the same day, Cardinal Parolin encouraged all Lebanese “to continue to hope and to find the strength and energy to set out again”, despite the economic, social and political crisis which has only been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic and the explosion in August.
The Vatican Secretary of State appealed that the reconstruction of the country should be done not only at the material level, but also in a way that fosters a new approach to the management of public affairs based on laws, transparency, collective responsibility and the common good.
Cardinal Parolin concluded his homily with Pope Francis’s words during the General Audience on Wednesday: “And now I ask you to entrust to Mary, Our Lady of Harissa, our anxieties and our hopes. May she support all those who mourn their loved ones and may she give courage to all those who have lost their homes and, with them, part of their lives! May she intercede before the Lord Jesus so that the Land of Cedars may blossom again and spread the fragrance of living together throughout the Middle East.”