07/01/2021, 15.21
VATICAN
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Pope meets with Christian leaders to pray for Lebanon

The Day of Reflection and Prayer for Lebanon began with a prayer and the lighting of a candle in front of Saint Peter's tomb. The day for peace, which includes three consultations behind closed doors, will end in the evening, in the Vatican Basilica, with an ecumenical prayer.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Day of Reflection and Prayer for Lebanon began with Pope Francis and the Lebanese Christian leaders praying and lighting a candle in front of Saint Peter’s tomb.

At the start, Francis welcomed Lebanon’s Christian religious leaders at Casa Santa Marta, in the Vatican, for the Day of Reflection and Prayer for Lebanon, a country linked to the early times of Gospel preaching, the last in the region with a significant Christian presence, a nation going through its most serious economic and political crisis since the civil war (1975-1990).

According to UN estimates, the poverty rate rose to 55 per cent in 2020. The proportion of Lebanese in extreme poverty rose  from 8 per cent to 23 per cent. This situation is aggravated by the presence of about one and a half million Syrian refugees.

The Day’s schedule includes three consultations behind closed doors, ending in the evening, in the Vatican Basilica, with an ecumenical prayer. There will be invocations and songs drawn from the different traditions present in Lebanon with texts in Arabic, Syriac, Armenian, and Chaldean.

Towards the end, some young people will give Christian leaders a lighted lamp, which will then be placed on a candelabrum, symbolising hope of peace for that land. The Pope will end the meeting expressing his own reflection.

In addition to Francis, participants include Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rahi, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and of the whole East Youhanna X, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians Aram I, Syro-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Youssef III, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek Melkites Youssef Absi, Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon President Rev Joseph Kassab, and the Bishop of Beirut of the Chaldeans Michel Kassarji.

Also in attendance are the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

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