05/04/2020, 15.25
LEBANON
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The Lebanese Church backs the government's economic recovery plan

In the homily on the feast day of Our Lady of Lebanon, Patriarch al-Rahi calls on the government to ratify the whole recovery plan next Wednesday. Challenges and needs have increased as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The patriarch appeals to Our Lady to heal the sick. Shia leader slammed Germany’s decision to designate Hezbollah as terrorist organisation and ban its activities.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Lebanese Church has welcomed the economic recovery plan recently approved by the government and is hopeful that it will be ratified next Wednesday’s meeting at the presidential palace, said Maronite Patriarch Card Beshara al-Rahi yesterday during his Sunday Mass homily on the feast day of Our Lady of Lebanon.

In his address, the patriarch appealed to the country’s political leaders to restore the country’s “economic life” and deal with its "growing poverty". For him, a balance must be found between devaluing the Lebanese pound and the cost of living. In his view, the government has to meet the existing "needs and challenges" that the COVID-19 has made worse.

For months the country has been in a deep economic and political crisis, aggravated by the war in Syria, and more recently the novel coronavirus outbreak. The prevailing chaos  has increasingly worried Church leaders about a "plot to change the face of Lebanon.”

Yesterday’s Mass was celebrated in the church of the patriarchate and not, following tradition, in the basilica of Harissa, near the statue of Our Lady. In his homily, the cardinal called on God through Mary's intercession "to heal" coronavirus patients.

He also urged the Lebanese to join “officials and workers" in their political and social efforts because today "the number of poor families" is rising in the world and many "will not be able to recover".

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hassan Diab and Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni last Friday formally asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance in accordance with a reform plan adopted by the government on 30 April after weeks of discussions.

The plan aims at restructuring the country’s debt, review public spending, and ask for aid to revive an economy adrift. It includes a request for US billion in loans, plus US billion pledged by donor countries at the 2018 Paris Conference (CEDRE).

Patriarch al-Rahi ended his homily by noting that it is "the duty of the state" to pay the debts of public bodies, including "hospitals, schools, orphanages" so that the latter can “keep their employees and pay salaries".

Similarly, it is essential to solve the long-standing problem of waste management, and support the government’s efforts to encourage “the return of the Lebanese from abroad, especially students”.

Meanwhile, Shia High Council president Sheik Abdel Amir Kabalan slammed Germany for banning Hezbollah from its territory, calling on the Lebanese diaspora in that country and throughout Europe "to act upon and oppose this decision".

A few days ago, German authorities banned “the Lebanese Shia terrorist organisation,” following a request from the United States and Israel. Police and security forces raided mosques and entities linked to Hezbollah.

Kabalan condemned the decision, because it touches a movement "with broad support" in the country and which actively fights against “Zionist and Takfiri terrorism”.

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