By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis will meet with the Christian community of Lebanon on 1 July for a special day of prayer and reflection in the Vatican.
The Pope says the encounter with Lebanon’s Christian leaders is meant to seek solutions for “the worrying situation in the country and to pray together for the gift of peace and stability.”
In the lead-up to next Thursday’s event, US Bishops have expressed their support for the people of Lebanon and the Pope’s appeal.
Moment of grace, mercy, direction
Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, Chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace, released a statement on Monday to that effect.
The Bishop said Lebanon has “long been an example to the region and the world” and that the Lebanese people are facing a “difficult time”.
He called on everyone to “pray that the meeting of Lebanon’s Christian leaders with Pope Francis on 1 July will be met with divine grace, mercy, and direction”.
Bishop Malloy also asked US Catholics to support the work of Catholic aid agencies in Lebanon who are “courageously providing relief and hope”, including Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Caritas Lebanon, Catholic Relief Services, and Aid to the Church in Need.”
Protecting rights and social fabric
The upcoming Vatican encounter comes on the heels of an appeal issued in April by the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon.
The Church leaders called on the international community to help rebuild a country that is “a message of freedom and a witness to harmonious existence.”
They asked for assistance to “maintain their individual, collective, and national rights; overcome the economic crisis, protect Lebanese society’s social fabric, preserve Lebanon’s interreligious character, and support the Christian presence through Church institutions.”
The Pope called the 1 July day of prayer in response to the ongoing crisis.
International assistance needed
US Bishops recognized Pope Francis’ care and concern, and recalled his Christmas 2020 letter to the people of Lebanon.
In that letter, the Pope said Lebanese can “bring to the whole world the sweet fragrance of mutual respect, coexistence, and pluralism.”
He also called on the international community to assist the nation in overcoming its political and economic crises and “stand apart from conflicts and regional tensions.”
Lebanon’s crisis is both economic and political, with politicians gridlocked over the formation of a new government.
On the economic front, the Lebanese pound has seen sharp devaluation—owing to a financial meltdown and aggravated by pandemic lockdowns—losing almost 90 percent of its value on the informal market over the past 18 months. The crisis has sparked several waves of protests.