By Lisa Zengarini
On the occasion of the Feast of Saint Maron, patron of the Maronite Church, on February 9, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, participated in a Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Pontifical Maronite College in Rome. At the end of the Liturgy, which was presided over by the Procurator of the Maronite Patriarch to the Holy See, Bishop Rafic El Warcha , the Argentinian prelate addressed the participants with a greeting speech in which he focused on the dramatic situation in Lebanon following the two terrible explosions which devastated Beirut on August 4.
Solidarity in the aftermath of the explosion
In his address, Cardinal Sandri remarked that in spite of the economic, social and political crisis which the Country was already facing before the disaster, Lebanese people have shown great solidarity, working hard - he said - to meet the needs of those most affected: to free the streets from the debris, give shelter to those left without a home, deliver foodstuff and clothes, repairing infrastructures.
He also recalled the solidarity shown by the international community and especially of the Church around the world - and of the Holy See in particular. “With both words and charity, Pope Francis himself and Holy See and have been on the forefront”, he said. He remembered the numerous Pontiff’s appeals for Lebanon, including the one in his recent address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, but also the many initiatives organized by the Church to help Lebanon get back on its feet again.
The signs of a living Church
Cardinal Sandri remarked that all these gestures are the sign “of a living Church that wants to live in the streets of the world by the side of her sons and daughters and all the men and women of good will, putting into practice the example of the Good Samaritan" to which the Holy Father pointed in his Encyclical Letter “Fratelli Tutti”. He noted that the capacity of the Lebanese people of different religions to live together makes the Country a witness of this message of fraternity.+ù
Church, Lebanon and Lebanese diaspora entrusted to St Maron
Recalling the history the Maronite Church, which has had to face many adversities to keep the faith alive, the Prefect finally entrusted the Church, Lebanon and the Lebanese diaspora to St. Maron. He asked for his intercession to “end to the suffering aggravated by the pandemic” and to enlighten the Lebanese leaders so that they set aside their personal interests and commit themselves to pursuing the good of the Country, as asked by Pope Francis.
Political and economic crisis compounded by pandemic
Lebanon is going through one in its worst political and economic crisis since the official ending of the civil war in 1990, with rising poverty, which has dramatically increased with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, while hosting some 1.5 million refugees from war-torn Syria. Due to partisan interests, political leaders are yet to come to a final agreement on a new government, six months after the twin explosion at the port of Beirut that led to the resignation of Hassane Diab. On Monday, Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Raï appealed for an “international conference” under the aegis of the United Nations to end the paralysis, protect the Country’s sovereignty and guarantee some form of stability.