Friends of Lebanon
A Project of Unitas
Shining the “light of hope”
June 30, 2021
Tomorrow, July 1, a summit will take place in Rome between Pope Francis and key religious leaders of Lebanon. The pope will host the Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Syro-Catholic patriarch, Ignace Youssif III Younan, the Chaldean bishop Michel Kassarji, and the Latin vicar-apostolic, Bishop César Essayan, according to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches.
Francis has summoned the principal leaders of the Christian Communities in Lebanon to Rome for a day of reflection on “the worrying situation in the country, and to pray together for the gift of peace and stability.”
The Pope wishes to shine the “light of hope” on the dramatic situation in Lebanon, a country sinking into poverty and chaos a year after a terrible August 4 explosion (link) in the harbor of Beirut, the capital, which killed more than 200 and left an estimated 300,000 homeless.
In the face of Christian disunity, Pope’s speech will be key
Speaking to L’Orient-Le Jour (LOJ) Fr Fadi Daou, founder of Adyan, an NGO engaged in interfaith dialogue, noted that “the salient point will be the speech that the Pope will deliver at the end of the day and his reaction to the different approaches by the patriarchs present.”
Christian leaders are “incapable of adopting a common and unified line,” Fr Daou said. “The novelty will not come from the patriarchs,” whose voices have for months sounded like a broken record, but “from what the Pope will say.”
An international conference with a role for the Holy See?
The latter might include a role for the Holy See at “an international conference on Lebanon,” which is something the Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi has been calling for for months.
The country’s various Eastern Churches have responded in various ways to this request as well as to the Patriarch’s call for Lebanon’s “neutrality.”
Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox bishops have expressed reservations on that matter, preventing the formulation of a joint document for Rome, probably due to the fact that the Orthodox patriarchs are in Damascus and such a proposal might seem hostile to Syria, L’Orient-Le Jour (LOJ) wrote today.
The most likely scenario is that the Vatican will recognize “the need” for an international forum for Lebanon, this according to anonymous episcopal source close to the Maronite Patriarchate, the paper reported.
The Pope announced the meeting on May 30, saying: “I entrust this intention to the intercession of the Mother of God, so venerated at the Shrine of Harissa, and from this moment I ask you to accompany the preparation of this event with prayer in solidarity, invoking for that beloved country a more serene future.”
Recent visit to Lebanon
Dr. Joseph Gebeily, President of the Lebanese Information Center (LIC), recently concluded a three-week visit to Lebanon. He left with the following observations and concerns:
- Lebanon’s deteriorating socioeconomic situation may lead to civil unrest, with more than 50% of Lebanese in poverty, unemployment exceeding 40%, and businesses continuing to close.
- Essential goods and services are becoming increasingly rare, including basic medications and fuel for vehicles and generators. Electricity outages are frequent.
- As the one-year anniversary of the August 4 Beirut Port explosion nears, Lebanon is no closer to determining the cause and culprits behind the blast. There are growing calls by families of the victims, rights groups, and foreign diplomats for a UN fact-finding mission.
- Concerns are growing that self-interested actors will attempt to postpone a series of elections, including parliamentary ones, set to take place within the next year.
“The only way to secure real change is through free and fair parliamentary elections that are held on time, bringing new representatives with a mandate from Lebanon’s people,” said Dr. Gebeily. “The international community and U.S. officials should stress that these elections must take place at any cost.”
He concluded: “Lebanon’s friends around the globe must not look away as its population suffers. We need them to help keep Lebanon afloat until its people have their chance for change at the ballot box.”
The Unitas “Friends of Lebanon” initiative, launched by Urbi et Orbi Communications (the publisher of Inside the Vatican magazine) is seeking to raise awareness of the plight of Lebanon.
We are also seeking to raise funds to help people on the ground in the country, to assist efforts to stabilize the situation amid.
Tomorrow we will report on the results of the meeting of the Lebanese Christian leaders with Pope Francis.
On Friday at 11 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, we will host a Zoom conference call with our friends on the ground in Lebanon to discuss what can be done to help especially the young, who increasingly are thinking of leaving the country.
— by Christopher Hart-Moynihan, Friends of Lebanon Project Director
Lebanon Relief Meet and Greet
All times are in Eastern Time: U.S. and Canada.
Thank you for your interest and support of our Friends of Lebanon Project. Your donation goes directly to help those who are greatly in need in Lebanon.
The Friends of Lebanon gather on the first Friday of every month, for a Meet and Greet with the young people in Lebanon who are working on the ground in the country. Learn about the current situation in Lebanon by those who live there and are working to keep Christians in their beloved homeland. We will discuss how we have helped to date and what we can do in the months ahead.
The Meet and Greets are led by George Assaf, Aya Niameh, and Christopher Hart-Moynihan.
Our first Lebanon Report, Tragedy and Hope in Lebanon, was sent out to all readers of the Moynihan Letters on Tuesday, June 1. You can view it by clicking the button below. Please share with your friends and loved ones.
We are so thankful to all of you for your support and look forward to seeing you all on Zoom tomorrow!
Please enjoy a complimentary digital edition of Inside the Vatican Magazine by clicking here.
Director, Friends of Lebanon Project
Urbi et Orbi Communications