Pope Francis has called for today, Friday Sept. 4, 2020, to be a special day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon, and commemorating it, his Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is in Beirut, showing his closeness to the Lebanese people.
Received by Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, Cardinal Parolin, with a very full agenda of various meetings, is expected to return to Rome by tomorrow. In his addresses, the Secretary of State recognized the great suffering of the nation, compounded by other challenges, while always underscoring how important it is to preserve the unique identity of their country, and with the support of the International Community.
Earlier this week, at the Holy Father’s first General Audience with faithful present since February, he made a dramatic appeal for Lebanon.
The cardinal met with religious leaders at the St. George Maronite Cathedral, Beirut on Sept. 3 to remember the tragic Aug. 4 explosion.
Here, he likewise exhorted: “I wish to repeat quite clearly the appeal of Pope Francis to the International community: do not leave Lebanon alone! Lebanon needs the world, but the world also needs the unique ongoing experiment of pluralism, living together in solidarity and freedom that is Lebanon.”
“Together, we will rebuild Beirut! God bless you!” he said.
At the Sept. 2 General Audience, Pope Francis stressed that a month after the tragedy that struck the city of Beirut, his thoughts still go to dear Lebanon and its particularly tried population.
The Pope quoted the Apostolic Letter of his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, on Sept. 7, 1989, to the world’s bishops on the situation in Lebanon.
“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).”
The Holy Father applauded that for over a hundred years, Lebanon has been “a country of hope.”
“Even during the darkest periods of its history,” he noted, “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.”
He expressed his encouragement to all Lebanese to keep their hope and find 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,” he said. “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.”
To the the inhabitants of Beirut, severely tested by the explosion, he exhorted: “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.”
To pastors, bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay people, Francis urged: “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.”
At this point, he invited all people to take part in today’s universal day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon, noting he would send Cardinal Parolin to accompany the population this day.
“The Secretary of State will go in my name, to express my closeness and solidarity,” he said, noting: 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.”
Pope Francis then called on all 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,” he said.
He then invited everyone present at the General Audience, while always keeping their necessary distances, to stand up in silence and pray silently for Lebanon.
In Cardinal Parolin’s speach to the religious leaders, he acknowledged the great international response to the Pope’s appeal for “prayer, fasting and solidarity with Beirut” and with Lebanon.
“The response to the Pope’s appeal has been immediate, arriving from so many different countries, from all the continents. You are not alone!” he rejoiced.
However, he also acknowledged: “Certainly, no one can live in a situation fearing that one’s life and that of his or her beloved ones can be threatened at any moment.”
“That is why,” he continued, “we stand by you in silence and solidarity to express our love. Standing by you, we find the courage to shout together: ‘enough.’”
Our suffering, he noted, “can help us purify our intentions and strengthen our resolve to live together in peace and dignity, to strive for a better governance that favours responsibility, transparency and accountability. Together we can defeat violence and all forms of authoritarism, by promoting inclusive citizenship based on the respect of fundamental rights and duties.”
Cardinal Parolin applauded the “beautiful examples” of solidarity that are being lived all over Beirut strengthen our hope and inspire our future actions.
“Together with religious leaders we also have representatives of different faith-based and civil society organizations,” he said, noting: “I know that all of you are bearing the biggest part of the responsibility and deploying great efforts not to abandon anyone in these tragic circumstances.”
“May you continue to offer an example of sincere solidarity, faithful to the Lebanese tradition of resilience, creativity and mutual support,” Cardinal Parolin said.
Below is the full text:
Meeting of His Eminence Cardinal PIETRO PAROLIN
Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis
with Religious Leaders of Beirut
in remembrance of the tragic explosion of 4 August 2020
St. George Maronite Cathedral, Beirut, 3 September 2020
Dear Brother Bishops and dear Representatives of the different Religious communities and of humanitarian organizations present in Beirut.
Dear friends, I would like to thank Monsignor Paul Abdel Sater, Maronite Archbishop of Beirut, for welcoming us all to this fraternal meeting. I am also grateful to all of you present here for joining us in this moment of recollection and prayer. We are still shocked by what happened a month ago. We ask God to give his peace to all the victims of the tremendous and tragic explosion that rapid ripped through the heart of the City. We pray that God may render us strong to care for every person who was affected and to accomplish the task of rebuilding Beirut.
As I arrived here, the temptation was to say that I would have liked to meet you in different circumstances. I said “No”, however! The God of love and mercy is also the God of history and we believe that God wants us to accomplish our mission of caring for our brothers and sisters in this present time, with all its difficulties and challenges.
Dear friends, I come to your historic city to express the nearness of the Catholic Church throughout the world. His Holiness Pope Francis has asked me to come and meet you after he launched his appeal for “prayer, fasting and solidarity with Beirut” and with Lebanon. The response to the Pope’s appeal has been immediate, arriving from so many different countries, from all the continents. You are not alone!
Certainly, no one can live in a situation fearing that one’s life and that of his or her beloved ones can be threatened at any moment. That is why we stand by you in silence and solidarity to express our love. Standing by you, we find the courage to shout together: “enough”. Our suffering can help us purify our intentions and strengthen our resolve to live together in peace and dignity, to strive for a better governance that favours responsibility, transparency and accountability. Together we can defeat violence and all forms of authoritarism, by promoting inclusive citizenship based on the respect of fundamental rights and duties.
Dear friends, in his Message for the 52nd World Day of Peace (2018), Pope Francis wrote: “when the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals, the future is compromised and young people can be tempted to lose confidence, since they are relegated to the margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future.” I would like to ask you to insist with all Lebanese political leaders, those of the traditional parties as also of the newly formed movements, to sincerely and concretely foster the talents of young people and their aspirations for peace and a better future. Nobody should manipulate the dreams of the younger generations, but rather facilitate the active participation of the young in the building of society.
I cannot forget to mention today the unique value of Lebanon, part of the Holy Land that was visited by Our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles, and by his Mother, beloved by all Lebanese, the Holy Virgin Mary. All of us, as religious leaders, we have a primary mission to give hope to an afflicted population, to honour and serve our brothers and sisters in humanity, starting by the most vulnerable. Let us help each other to accomplish our mission.
The beautiful examples of solidarity that are being lived all over Beirut strengthen our hope and inspire our future actions. Together with religious leaders, we also have representatives of different faith-based and civil society organizations. I know that all of you are bearing the biggest part of the responsibility and deploying great efforts not to abandon anyone in these tragic circumstances. May you continue to offer an example of sincere solidarity, faithful to the Lebanese tradition of resilience, creativity and mutual support.
Finally, I wish to repeat quite clearly the appeal of Pope Francis to the International community: do not leave Lebanon alone! Lebanon needs the world, but the world also needs the unique ongoing experiment of pluralism, living together in solidarity and freedom that is Lebanon.
Together, we will rebuild Beirut! God bless you!