Maronite Bishops express joy for Pope Francis' visit to Lebanon
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
The Maronite Bishops of Lebanon have "expressed their joy at the news of Pope Francis' visit to Lebanon," reported Fides on Wednesday.
Following an encounter in the Lebanese city of Bkerke, home of the Patriarchal See of the Maronite Catholic Church, the bishops issued a statement, "asking God to bless the Pope, and to carry out all Pope Francis' desires for the good of Lebanon and of all Lebanese people."
Following the Pope's recent meeting with the President of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, in the Vatican on 22 March, the Lebanese President tweeted regarding a possibile trip of the Holy Father to his nation in June.
Widely-anticipated papal visit
Subsequently, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, issued a brief statement to journalists, noting the papal visit "is a possibility that is being studied.”
As the country has suffered years of political, economic and social crises, the Pope has expressed numerous times in recent years his intention to visit.
In the Middle East, Lebanon is the country with the greatest percentage of Christians, constituting more than a third of the population. The nation also has the greatest number of Catholics in the region, belonging primarily to the Maronite Catholic rite, along with other Eastern Catholic rites.
Entrusting the Land of Cedars
Pope Francis called for a World Day of Prayer and Reflection for Lebanon with patriarchs and leaders of the Christian Churches in Lebanon in the Vatican on 1 July 2021.
During that day's ecumenical prayer gathering, the Pope prayed for a new beginning in the conflict-ridden nation.
The Holy Father also made countless appeals for the Land of the Cedars during his weekly General Audiences and Sunday Angelus addresses, especially following the tragic explosion at the Beirut Port on August 2020.
Pope Francis' visit to the Lebanon will follow in his predecessors' footsteps, as Pope St. John Paul visited the nation in 1997, and Pope Benedict XVI, in 2012.