Vatican News staff writer
Cardinal Béchara Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, has entrusted Lebanon to Saint Charbel, and that his intercession might help the nation pull out of one of the worst crises in its history. The Feast of Saint Charbel was marked on Sunday, July 18. In his homily for the occasion, the Patriarch said Saint Charbel "will not let Lebanon collapse," and encouraged the faithful to seek, through his intercession, "the miracle of our salvation from total ruin." The economic and political crisis in Lebanon has entered a new phase with last week’s renunciation of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to form a new government, after struggling negotiations lasting several months with President Michel Aoun.
"On behalf of the poor, oppressed, hungry and lost people, like sheep without a shepherd," Cardinal Raï urged all political forces to unity in order to choose together a prime minister who is capable of facing the enormous challenges facing Lebanon. "It is time to take responsibility, not retreat," he stressed. "The country is not facing a normal crisis of government," but a systemic crisis "that requires concerted efforts by all" and the overcoming of "selfishness, interests and the narrow electoral calculations that unfortunately dominate the attention of most parties at the expense of the highest national interest."
According to the head of the Maronite Church, the institutional deadlock and immobility of Lebanese political leaders confirms that the only way out of the crisis is by convening an international conference under the auspices of the UN that formalizes the "neutrality" of Lebanon in the Middle East political scenarios. The country's ruling class, he said, proves every day more and more its inability "to solve simple daily issues such as waste removal, electricity, food, and medicine", to "fight corruption, facilitate the work of the judiciary, regulate the functioning of ministries and administrations, close the routes of waste trafficking", and to implement the reforms that Lebanon urgently needs.
Lebanon has been without a government for almost a year and has been going through a serious political, economic and social crisis for some time. The situation has been worsened by the pandemic and by the explosions at Beirut’s port in August 2020, pulling 55% of the population below the poverty line. In this dramatic context, Cardinal Raï has repeatedly relaunched his proposal for an International Conference for Lebanon under the auspices of the UN, stressing the urgency of reaffirming and protecting Lebanese "neutrality" so that the country is not drawn into conflicts between regional powers and can thus safeguard its specific pluralist identity.
An appeal to the international community to help Lebanon "not sink" and recover was also made by Pope Francis on the occasion of the recent Day of Reflection and Prayer for Lebanon, celebrated on July 1 at the Vatican with the leaders of Lebanon's Christian communities. In particular, the Pope called on national political leaders to put themselves resolutely at the service of the country, and not of their own interests; and also for an end to external interference to give the Lebanese a chance to be builders of a brighter future.
On August 4, on the first anniversary of the explosions in the port of Beirut, a new international conference will be organized for Lebanon on the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, who is pressing for the rapid establishment of a national unity government to enact the reforms necessary to release blocked international aid.