By Vatican News
Over a month has gone by since the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port killed more than 220 people, injured 6000 and displaced at least 300,000. The Catholic Church’s presence on the ground continues in the city and surroundings with a steady commitment to provide support and aid to those in need.
That’s why Aloysius John, Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis, travelled to Lebanon on Saturday for a visit that foresees meetings with religious leaders and members of the local and regional Caritas offices. John will be in Beirut until Thursday, 17 September, in order to better organize and coordinate humanitarian aid as well as reconstruction and development programmes where they are most needed.
When the massive explosion in Beirut's port area destroyed or damaged homes, schools, care centres and hospitals on 4 August, the population was already in the throes of a grave political and economic crisis and a spiralling humanitarian emergency due to Covid-19.
Pope Francis’s closeness
Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his closeness to the people of Lebanon. His call for a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Lebanon and the visit of Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin exactly one month from the blast brought tangible solidarity to the country.
Many churches across the world have also organized special moments of prayer and solidarity while local Caritas Offices throughout the world have launched a fundraising campaign for those in need.
Meetings and logistics
The Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï and Bishop Michel Aoun are amongst the religious leaders John is scheduled to meet with.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Caritas Internationalis communications director, Marta Petrosillo, said John’s presence highlights the Vatican’s commitment to work together with the local churches.
She said that although the Caritas Lebanon office in Beirut was hit by the explosion, its volunteers have mobilized to bring help to the population.
“There are over 800 young people, working day and night to help the people. They provide about 10,000 meals a day and distribute much-needed medicines. Psychological assistance is also guaranteed. and volunteers have helped people clean up their homes and get them back into sustainable conditions wherever possible,” she said.
Petrosillo said the purpose of this visit is to show the closeness of Caritas Internationalis to the Lebanese population, but also to give the Secretary-General the opportunity to verify the needs of the people and organize aid so it is even more effective.
The solidarity of donors
Even before the explosion, the socio-economic conditions in Lebanon had deteriorated considerably due to the country’s grave economic crisis and political instability.
Thus, Petrosillo said, “70% of the population is in need of some kind of assistance following the exponential growth [in the] rate of unemployment. In addition to this, over 140 schools have been damaged by the explosion and there is a huge need for help."
Petrosillo concluded expressing gratitude for the generosity and solidarity of donors who are making Caritas’s work possible.