Lebanese people don’t need any more interference, says Pope

AP News

Lebanese people must be given the opportunity to create a better future for their own country without undue interference, says Pope Francis.

The country must remain a “land of tolerance and pluralism” he said as he welcomed Lebanon’s Christian patriarchs to the Vatican last Thursday.

Francis prayed the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic before he and the patriarchs lit a candle before the tomb of St. Peter.

It was the start of a busy day that included three, closed-door working meetings and a communal lunch.

The patriarchs – who stayed with Francis at his home – joined with him to pray for an end to the economic and political crisis that has thrown their country into chaos and threatened its Christian community. Their visit included an evening prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica, featuring prayers and hymns in Arabic, Syriac, Armenian and Chaldean. Members of the Lebanese community in Rome and the diplomatic corps filled the pews.

During the service, Francis said Lebanon’s vocation was to be an “oasis of fraternity where different religions and confessions meet, where different communities live together, putting the common good before their individual interests.”

“Lebanon cannot be left prey to the course of events or (to) those who pursue their own unscrupulous interests,” he said. “It is a small yet great country, but even more, it is a universal message of peace and fraternity arising from the Middle East.”

Francis also pointed to the Lebanese political class from their responsibility for the mess which their country faces.

“Let there be an end to the few profiting from the sufferings of many! No more letting half-truths continue to frustrate people’s aspirations!

“Stop using Lebanon and the Middle East for outside interests and profits!”

He urged the international community to work so Lebanon “will not collapse, but embark upon a path of recovery.”

“This will be to everyone’s advantage,” he said.

“Human relationships cannot be based on the pursuit of partisan interests, privileges and advantages,” he insisted to Lebanese people at the service.

“We Christians are called to be sowers of peace and builders of fraternity, not nursing past grudges and regrets, not shirking the responsibilities of the present, but looking instead with hope to the future.”

“Let us therefore assure our Muslim brothers and sisters, and those of other religions, of our openness and readiness to work together in building fraternity and promoting peace.”

Earlier last week, the Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher urged other countries to help Lebanon with its “unparalleled economic and financial crisis”. The country, must be prevented from descending into chaos to maintain a diversified Middle East, he said.

Lebanon is home to 6 million people, including an estimated 1 million refugees. It is the only Middle Eastern country with a Christian head of state.

Under Lebanon’s power sharing agreement drawn up at the end of the 1975-1990 Civil War, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim and the President a Maronite Catholic. However, the ruling class’s failure to agree on a new government has left the country without a government since August 2020.


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