For the Bishop of Jbeil-Byblos, the meeting on 1 July will boost “Christian unity” and speed up the formation of a new government. At least 20 people were injured over the weekend. As partisan protests, they lack “unity of intent”. The goal is to stop the exodus of young Christians, which is undermining the country’s demographic balance.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Bishop Michel Aoun of Jbeil-Byblos of the Maronites sees the meeting on 1 July at the Vatican as an essential contribution to overcoming the many crises – social, political and economic – that characterise Lebanon.
It will also boost “Christian unity” and help Vatican’s diplomatic efforts to have Lebanon “form a government”, work for the future, and put aside tensions, interests and opposing pressures that have so far fuelled divisions.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate underscored Pope Francis’s personal commitment to “turning on the lights of hope” in the country and focussing on the sufferings of its people, who continue to experience “great hardships, aggravated by the economic crisis”.
“For many years, the dollar was trading at 1,500 Lebanese pounds,” the prelate noted. “After the double explosion at the port of Beirut, it jumped to 18,000 Lebanese pounds.”
Meanwhile, “Wages have remained the same, while prices have increased 10 fold. An item that cost 10,000 pounds now sells at 100,000. As a result of shortages, there are very long line-ups at petrol stations.” And to top it off, “We've been without a government for months.”
The difficult situation has pushed people into the streets, but the protests are more like riots organised by single parties or movements than grassroots actions.
The latest occurred over the weekend in Tripoli, in the north of the country, with some 20 people injured in clashes between protesters and security forces. Calm returned to the city last night, but tensions remain high and more troubles cannot be ruled out in the coming days.
“These are not grassroots protests across the country,” noted the bishop of Jbeil-Byblos, but rather “protests controlled by parties to exert pressure for one or two days. There is no unity of intent, no positive pressure for the formation of a government, nor for party leaders to find a solution instead of just looking out for their own interests, be they Sunni, Shia or even Christian.”
For Bishop Aoun, the problem is “the lack of a sense of unity. At the end of the civil war that lasted between 1975 and 1990 there was no real reconciliation between people, an awareness and admission of wrongs, of the mistakes made, which would have enabled the country could really be a message as John Paul II called it.
“Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi speaks of positive neutrality because we cannot afford to be a land of conflict. [. . .] The Pope wants to turn on the lights of hope” and “a meeting of all Christian leaders and an ecumenical table are of great interest to the country”.
“The pontiff, as Card Sandri stressed, wants to open the door to peace in a country burdened by an economic and social crisis. Its collapse affects particularly Christians, with a high level of youth emigration that could undermine its demographic balance.”
The Holy See “is convinced that Lebanon must be helped” since “what happens there echoes tensions between Iran, the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other actors in the region and on a global scale”.
Christians “will follow this day with great expectation and participation. In our convents and churches, we plan moments of prayer, Mass and worship, recitation of the Rosary, that it may bear fruit.”.
The same applies to political leaders, Muslims but above all Christians “who in recent days have asked for a meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio to make their voice heard.”
All of us “truly hope that Vatican diplomacy can help Lebanon and exert the right pressure for the birth of the long-awaited new government, which would be the first positive signal for the country and a necessary condition for the arrival of international aid.”