“Holy Father, we are waiting for you to come to Lebanon and to bless our land…”
Father Georges Breidi of the Congregation of Lebanese Maronite Missionaries told this to ZENIT English today after having been the priest who became famous today bringing the Lebanese flag to Pope Francis and praying together with him as the Pontiff made another dramatic appeal for Lebanon.
In an interview with ZENIT, Italy’s TG1 and TV2000, Fr. Breidi, 35, discussed the Pope’s appeal for a day of prayer and fasting for the Middle Eastern country to be held this Friday, Sept. 4th.
At the conclusion of the Audience, Pope Francis made the following appeal:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, One month after the tragedy that struck the city of Beirut, my thoughts still go to dear Lebanon and its particularly tried population. And this priest who is here has carried the flag of Lebanon at this Audience.
As Saint John Paul II said 30 years ago at a crucial moment in the country’s history, I too repeat today: “Faced with the repeated tragedies that each of the inhabitants of this land knows, we become aware of the extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country. Lebanon cannot be abandoned in its solitude “( Apostolic Letter to all the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the situation in Lebanon , 7 September 1989).
For over a hundred years, Lebanon has been a country of hope. Even during the darkest periods of its history, the Lebanese have kept their faith in God and demonstrated the ability to make their land a place of tolerance, respect and coexistence unique in the region. The affirmation that Lebanon represents something more than a state is profoundly true: Lebanon “is a message of freedom, it is an example of pluralism both for the East and for the West” (ibid.). For the good of the country itself, but also of the world, we cannot allow this heritage to be lost.
I encourage all Lebanese to continue to hope and to find the strength and energy necessary to restart. I ask politicians and religious leaders to engage with sincerity and transparency in the work of reconstruction, dropping partisan interests and looking at the common good and the future of the nation. I also renew my invitation to the international community to support the country to help it emerge from the serious crisis, without being involved in regional tensions.
In particular, I address the inhabitants of Beirut, severely tested by the explosion: take courage, brothers! May faith and prayer be your strength. Do not abandon your homes and your inheritance, do not let the dreams of those who have believed in the future of a beautiful and prosperous country fall.
Dear pastors, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, lay people, continue to accompany your faithful. And of you, bishops and priests, I ask apostolic zeal; I ask you for poverty, no luxury, poverty with your poor people who are suffering. You set the example of poverty and humility. Help your faithful and your people to stand up and be protagonists of a new rebirth. All of you may be operators of harmony and renewal in the name of common interest, of a true culture of encounter, of living together in peace, of brotherhood. A word so dear to St. Francis: brotherhood. May this harmony be a renewal in the common interest. On this foundation it will be possible to ensure the continuity of the Christian presence and your invaluable contribution to the country, the Arab world and the whole region,
It is for this reason that I would like to invite everyone to experience a universal day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon, next Friday, September 4th. I have the intention of sending one of my representatives that day to Lebanon to accompany the population: the Secretary of State will go in my name, to express my closeness and solidarity. We offer our prayers for all of Lebanon and for Beirut. We are also close with the concrete commitment of charity, as on other similar occasions. I also invite the brothers and sisters of other confessions and religious traditions to join this initiative in the ways they deem most appropriate, but all together.
And now I ask you to entrust our anxieties and hopes to Mary, Our Lady of Harissa. May she support those who mourn their loved ones and instill courage in all those who have lost their homes and part of their lives with them. May she intercede with the Lord Jesus, so that the Land of the Cedars may flourish again and spread the perfume of living together throughout the Middle East.
And now I invite everyone, as far as possible, to stand up in silence and pray in silence for Lebanon…
In addition to reflecting on this, the Lebanese priest shares about the situation in Lebanon, his wishes for an eventual papal trip to come to fruition and what the Pontiff’s closeness means to the Lebanese people.
ZENIT had been part of the Vatican press corps able to be present at the Pope’s first General Audience held with faithful today in the Courtyard of San Damaso of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, where they were able to speak with Fr. Breidi.
— ZenitEnglish (@zenitenglish) September 2, 2020
Here is the conversation:
The Holy Father spoke in a strong and spiritual way about Lebanon. When you return to Lebanon, what will you tell your brothers?
What happened today was a great surprise for me, and I really thank God for it. We have already heard the Holy Father speak about Lebanon in recent weeks. So last night I thought about coming here and carrying the flag of Lebanon, I was sure that at least he would give his blessing to the flag. But I did not know that the Pope had prepared today’s speech and the request to the Church to celebrate that day of prayer and fasting next Friday.
Pope Francis spoke in a spiritual way, but in his words I also saw an invitation to the rulers, and also to the Christians of Lebanon, because as I said before the Holy Father when he asked me to say a word of thanks, up to today there are more than 350,000 Christian families who have presented their documents to expatriate from Lebanon, because it is no longer possible to live in a country where there is a war every five or ten years.
Tell us more…
What happened is truly a great tragedy and we really need all the countries of the world and above all the Church, that they be our voice, the voice of the Lebanese people who stand in the face of corruption.
Lebanon was considered as the Switzerland of the East, it has long been the gateway to the Middle East, today it has become what it is because of corruption. Then we need a voice from the whole world. And today Pope Francis was truly the voice of the Lebanese people.
And after the Pope read his speech, what happened?
When I approached him, after the Pope read the speech he had prepared, he asked me to stand up and pray silently for Lebanon, then he asked me to say a word myself–even if I had nothing prepared–to the whole Church. I asked for life, I asked that we can live in peace in this country, because today we can no longer live.
How did you get close to the Pope?
I did not do anything. I saw that he asked a monsignor about me [the Pope when greeting the pilgrims saw Fr Breidi’s Lebanese flag and kissed it], then they contacted me, hinting to me that at the end of the Audience, the Pope would say something about Lebanon. He told me to approach when the Pope begins speaking.
Some reliable sources had spoken of a trip by the Pope to Lebanon this September, which of course could not happen. But what would be needed for the Pope to make a trip to Lebanon?
A trip by the Pope would really be necessary. That’s what I told him at the end, Holy Father, we are waiting for you in Lebanon, to bless our land. Pope Francis is very much loved by the Lebanese people.
This year marked a special 100-year anniversary…
Yes. Yesterday was the hundred years since the declaration of the State of Greater Lebanon.