Lebanon Report 2021: #4, Lebanon in Vatican #2

    Let us recognize that there is no other way to come to the dawn than by passing through the night. And in the night of crisis, all of us need to remain united.” –Pope Francis in his address today after meeting with the Christian leaders of Lebanon to pray for peace and prosperity in the troubled Middle Eastern country which is sliding into poverty and political chaos

    “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” —Jeremiah 29:11, cited by Pope Francis today with regard to the situation of the people of Lebanon

Pope Francis walks with the patriarchs in St. Peter’s Basilica, today in Rome. The leader of the Lebanese Maronite Church, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rai, 81, is directly to the right of Pope Francis wearing the red sash under his pectoral cross. Here is a link to Rome Reports videos on the meetings today

    The Key: Unity

    By Christopher Hart-Moynihan

    Unity — that was the heart of the message this evening in Rome of Pope Francis to the Christian leaders of Lebanon following an unprecedented day of prayer and consultation in the Vatican.

    By calling this meeting, Pope Francis made very clear that he considers Lebanon’s situation precarious, and requiring urgent attention.

    Unity, through reducing destructive political rivalries which have created a destructive government gridlock, reducing Lebanon’s people to the edge of despair. Many young Lebanese are so fearful and frustrated that they are seeking to leave the country. This is a situation that requires dramatic action if the beautiful country of Lebanon is to avoid much suffering and woe.

    Pope Francis said this himself when he focused on the short phrase from Scripture “the Lord declares that he has plans for peace and not for woe” (drawing on Jeremiah 29:11).

    The Pope said that Lebanon’s vocation is to be “a land of tolerance and pluralism, an oasis of fraternity where different religions and confessions meet, where different communities live together, putting the common good before their individual interests.”

    He then went on to stress how essential it is that “those in power choose finally and decisively to work for true peace and not for their own interests.”

    Essentially, the Pope is calling for a change in direction in Lebanon so that the country may draw back from the abyss, and its people, especially the young, may have hope for their future. (See the full text of the Pope’s address below.)

    The role of Unitas: Friends of Lebanon, in this effort

     Unity and new hope for the young people of Lebanon is at the heart of our own “Unitas” initiative, a project we at Inside the Vatican have launched to make a real contribution in the face of challenges in Lebanon that are so great that the Pope felt it necessary to call this special July 1 summit.

    Our work is directly inspired by this vision of unity. It is different from the work of the major aid organizations. Instead of layers of bureaucracy, we have young Lebanese friends on the ground in Lebanon whom we talk with regularly, who go to the homes of people in need. Many observers say widespread hunger is now looming in the country. So we are now beginning another push to support deliveries of basic goods like flour, rice, chickpeas, lentils, beans, and olive oil, all made by local suppliers in Lebanon. For just about $70, you can support a family in need in Lebanon for about 1 month. We would appreciate any support you could give to this project. You support will encourage Christian young people to stay in Lebanon. A monthly contribution would be very helpful so that the effort can proceed forward over time. Even $10 a month would be extremely helpful. To make a contribution, click here.

    Then, please consider joining us for a live Zoom call tomorrow, when we will break down what happened today in Rome, and introduce you personally to the Lebanese young people helping to carry out this work on the ground in Lebanon. They will answer any questions you have. The call is Friday, July 2, at 11 a.m., Eastern Standard Time.

    In the Pope’s address to the patriarchs, he quoted the words of a Lebanese poet and writer, Kahlil Gibran. Gibran (1883-1931) was born into a Maronite Christian family. His mother emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, USA, when he was 12 years old, and he spent parts of his adolescence in Lebanon, France, and the United States. The Pope’s choice of Gibran, who wrote in English, French, and Arabic, was in itself a gesture toward unity.

    Below is a Vatican News Service article published today about the meeting of the Pope and the patriarchs.

    Pope’s prayer for Lebanon: May we sink our roots in the dream of peace (link)

    At the end of a World Day of prayer and reflection for Lebanon, in which Lebanon’s Christian leaders joined Pope Francis in the Vatican, the Pope prays for peace in the strife-ridden nation and asks that the people of Lebanon turn to their roots, as it is from there that flowers bloom.

    By Vatican News staff writer

    Addressing those gathered at the Conclusion of the Ecumenical day of Prayer for Lebanon Pope Francis noted that on this day, “sustained by the prayers of the Holy People of God, in facing this dark situation, we, as pastors, have sought together to be guided by God’s light.”

    In this light of His, he continued, “we have seen our own lack of clarity” and the mistakes we have made.

    “For all this”, he continued, “we ask forgiveness,” and with contrite hearts we pray: “Lord, have mercy.”

    Some 10 senior leaders of the various Christian Churches and communities of Lebanon, along with their delegations, are in the Vatican for a day of prayer and reflection on the current situation of the troubled Middle Eastern nation and its future.

    The Pope went on to refer to the woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon, who, with this same plea, in her suffering insistently begged Jesus: “Lord, help me.”

    Joining in one plea

    “Today her plea has become that of an entire people, the disillusioned and weary Lebanese people in need of certainty, hope and peace,” said the Pope.

    Let us neither desist nor tire of accompanying the Lebanese people in this plea, he said, “imploring heaven for that peace which men and women find so difficult to build on earth.” It is a small yet great country, but even more, it is a universal message of peace and fraternity arising from the Middle East.    

    Addressing the people of Lebanon, Pope Francis noted that “you have distinguished yourselves by your resourcefulness and industriousness.” He asked that they be inspired by those “gone before” them, “who saw in diversity not obstacles but possibilities, and could thus build common foundations”. Sink your roots in their dreams of peace, said the Pope. Addressing the political leaders, the Pope asked that “in accordance with your responsibilities, may you find urgent and durable solutions to the current economic, social and political crisis, mindful that there can be no peace without justice.”

    Pope Francis then went on to note that as Christians our wish is “to renew our commitment to building a future together.”

    Our future will be peaceful only if it is shared, he explained.

    “Human relationships cannot be based on the pursuit of partisan interests, privileges and advantages,” he said. “We Christians are called to be sowers of peace and builders of fraternity, not nursing past grudges and regrets, not shirking the responsibilities of the present, but looking instead with hope to the future.”

    We believe that God has shown us but one way: the way of peace, he added.

    Paraphrasing the poet Gibran, Pope Francis stressed “let us recognize that there is no other way to come to the dawn than by passing through the night. And in the night of crisis, all of us need to remain united.

    Together, concluded the Pope, through honest dialogue and pure intentions, “we can bring light where there is darkness.”

    Let us entrust every effort and commitment to Christ, the Prince of Peace, he said, so that, “the night of conflicts recede before a new dawn of hope.”

    “May hostilities cease, disagreements fade away, and Lebanon once more radiate the light of peace,” he concluded.

Pope Francis greets Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan as Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi looks on July 1, 2021, in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where the pope lives. The patriarchs joined the pope and other Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders from Lebanon for a day of prayer and reflection. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

    Here is the complete text of the Pope’s talk today in Rome.

    The Pope’s Address after the Meeting

    Below we publish the Address that the Holy Father gave at the conclusion of the Ecumenical Prayer “The Lord God has plans for peace. Together for Lebanon” which took place today, 1 July 2021, in the Vatican:

    Dear brothers and sisters,

    We gathered today to pray and reflect, driven by concern for Lebanon, a strong concern, in seeing this country, which I carry in my heart and which I have the desire to visit, plunged into a serious crisis.

    I am grateful to all the participants for having readily accepted the invitation and for the fraternal sharing.

    We Pastors, sustained by the prayer of the Holy People of God, in this dark situation we tried together to orient ourselves in the light of God.

    And in his light we saw first of all our opacities: the mistakes made when we did not bear witness to the Gospel consistently and after all, the opportunities lost on the path of fraternity, reconciliation and full unity.

    Of this we ask forgiveness and with a contrite heart we say: “Have mercy, Lord!” (Mt 15:22).

    This was the cry of a woman who met Jesus precisely in the parts of Tire and Sidon and, in anguish, implored him insistently: “Lord, help me!” (v. 25).

    Today this cry has become that of an entire people, the disappointed and exhausted Lebanese people, in need of certainties, of hope, of peace.

    With our prayer we wanted to accompany this cry.

    Let us not give up, let us not tire of begging from Heaven for that peace that men struggle to build on earth. Let us ask insistently for the Middle East and for Lebanon.

    This dear country, a treasure of civilization and spirituality, which has radiated wisdom and culture over the centuries, which bears witness to a unique experience of peaceful coexistence, cannot be left to the mercy of fate or of those who pursue their own interests without scruples.

    A phrase that the Lord pronounces in Scripture resounded among us today, almost in response to the cry of our prayer.

    These are few words with which God declares that he has “plans for peace and not for misfortune” (Jer 29:11).

    Projects of peace and not of misfortune.

    In these times of misfortune we want to affirm with all our strength that Lebanon is, and must remain, a project of peace.

    Its vocation is to be a land of tolerance and pluralism, an oasis of fraternity where different religions and confessions meet, where different communities coexist, placing the common good before particular advantages.

    It is therefore essential — I wish to reiterate it — that those who hold power finally and decisively place themselves at the true service of peace and not their own interests.

    Enough to the advantage of a few on the skin of many! Enough for biased truths to prevail over people’s hopes! ” (Words at the end of the dialogue, Bari, 7 July 2018).

    Stop using Lebanon and the Middle East for foreign interests and profits! The Lebanese must be given the opportunity to be protagonists of a better future, in their land and without undue interference.

    You, dear Lebanese, have distinguished yourselves over the centuries, even in the most difficult moments, for your resourcefulness and industriousness.

    Your tall cedars, symbol of the country, evoke the flourishing richness of a unique history.

    And they also remember that large branches only come from deep roots.

    May the examples of those who have been able to build shared foundations inspire you, seeing in diversity not obstacles, but possibilities.

    Ground yourself in your elders’ dreams of peace.

    Never, as in recent months, have we understood that alone we cannot save ourselves and that the problems of some cannot be extraneous to the others.

    Therefore, we appeal to all of you.

    To you, citizens: do not be discouraged, do not lose heart, find in the roots of your history the hope of sprouting again.

    To you, political leaders: because, according to your responsibilities, find urgent and stable solutions to the current economic, social and political crisis, remembering that there is no peace without justice.

    To you, dear Lebanese of the diaspora: so that you can put the best energies and resources at your disposal at the service of your homeland.

    To you, members of the international community: with a joint effort, the conditions are set for the country not to collapse, but to embark on a path of recovery.

    As Christians, today we want to renew our commitment to building a future together, because the future will be peaceful only if it is common.

    Relations between men cannot be based on the pursuit of interests, privileges and partisan gains.

    No, the Christian vision of society comes from the Beatitudes, springs from meekness and mercy, leads to imitating in the world the action of God, who is Father and wants harmony between children.

    We Christians are called to be sowers of peace and artisans of fraternity, not to live on past resentments and remorse, not to flee from the responsibilities of the present, to cultivate a look of hope on the future.

    We believe that God points out only one way to our path: that of peace.

    We therefore assure our Muslim brothers and sisters and sisters of other religions openness and willingness to collaborate to build fraternity and promote peace.

    It “does not ask winners or losers, but brothers and sisters who, despite the misunderstandings and wounds of the past, walk from conflict to unity” (Speech, Inter-religious meeting, Piana di Ur, 6 March 2021).

    In this sense, I hope that this day will be followed by concrete initiatives in the name of dialogue, educational commitment and solidarity.

    Today we have made ours the words full of hope of the poet Gibran: Beyond the black curtain of the night there is a dawn waiting for us. Some young people have just given us some lighted lamps.

    They, the young, are lamps that burn in this dark hour.

    The hope of the future shines on their faces.

    They receive listening and attention, because the rebirth of the country passes through them.

    And all of us, before making important decisions, look to the hopes and dreams of young people.

    And let’s look at the children: their bright eyes, but streaked with too many tears, shake consciences and direct choices.

    Other lights shine on the horizon of Lebanon: they are women.

    The Mother of all comes to mind, who, from the hill of Harissa, embraces with her gaze those who reach the country from the Mediterranean.

    Her open hands are turned towards the sea and towards the capital Beirut, to welcome everyone’s hopes.

    Women are generators of life and hope for all; are respected, valued and involved in Lebanon’s decision-making processes.

    Even the old, the elderly who are our roots — they want to be heard. Let’s listen to them.

    Paraphrasing the poet again, we recognize that there is no other way to arrive at dawn than at night.

    And in the night of the crisis we need to remain united. Together, through the honesty of dialogue and the sincerity of intentions, we can bring light to dark areas.

    Let us entrust every effort and commitment to Christ, Prince of Peace, because, as we prayed, “when the shadowless rays of his mercy rise, darkness flees, twilight ends, darkness vanishes and night goes away. ”(Cf. S. GREGORY OF NAREK, Book of Lamentation , 41).

    The night of conflict disappears and a dawn of hope rises again. Let animosities cease, disagreements fade, and Lebanon returns to radiate the light of peace.

    [End Pope’s talk]