Lebanese Premier: the Pope's support for dialogue and reconciliation
by Fady Noun

Yesterday's meeting in the Vatican between Pope Francis and Nagib Mikati lasted 30 minutes. Concern for the situation in the country and prayers for "God to save it from all crises". Renewed invitation for an apostolic journey to the Land of the Cedars. Rejection of "hatred, intolerance, oppression in all its forms and in all places". 


Beirut (AsiaNews) - Following his meeting yesterday with Pope Francis, Lebanese Prime Minister Nagib Mikati left the Vatican with the renewed conviction that "Lebanon receives special attention from the Holy See" and that the latter "will make every effort to support [Beirut] in international forums."

At the end of the meeting with the Holy Father, which lasted about 30 minutes, Mikati added that "in these difficult times, Lebanon has an urgent need for prayer but, with equal urgency, for support from its friends at all levels, especially on the economic and social levels."

Pope Francis appealed to "a, the importance of peaceful coexistence was emphasised, so that Lebanon continues to be a message of peace and brotherhood rising from the Middle East." He then stressed that "the concerns for Lebanon are many" and "I will keep it in my prayers, so that God will save it from all crises." 

In response to the pontiff, Mikati said that "the war that almost destroyed our living together also taught us to protect this unique characteristic, and now we are struggling to preserve it despite the challenges and pitfalls, because it is a guarantee for our common future, without discrimination." 

He then went on to recall that "Christians in the East have always been pillars of freedom, human rights and religious freedom, and Lebanon has always found in them a safe haven. Moreover, the more Christians have felt safe in Lebanon the more beneficial this has been for all Christians in the East. I am convinced that the Holy See will be able to play a leading role in this regard."

The Lebanese prime minister arrived at the Vatican at 9 a.m. local time (10 a.m. in Beirut), accompanied by his wife May and an official delegation that included Justice Minister Henri Khoury, Tourism Minister Walid Nassar and Lebanese Ambassador to the Vatican, Farid el-Khazen. Mikati and the delegation then met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Card. Pietro Parolin, who did not hide his "concern" about the economic and social situation in Lebanon. The cardinal recalled that the credibility of the government lies in the respect of the commitments made to the international community. The Secretary of State then added that the country of the cedars is essential for the Christian presence in the East and has always been an example in the world for the way in which all societies have been able to coexist with each other. 

At the end of the meeting, the Lebanese Prime Minister - 65 years old Sunni Muslim - said that he brought His Holiness the greetings of President Michel Aoun and reiterated his invitation to visit Lebanon at the earliest opportunity: "All Lebanese are waiting for him as a sign of hope, like the visit of St. John Paul II to whom we owe the famous phrase: Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message". According to Mikati's note, "the pope is confident that the Lebanese are capable of overcoming the test." The Lebanese model "is not only useful internally. The whole Arab world can benefit from it, because it is a model of diversity and pluralism." 

Mikati added: "By common consent, the importance of stimulating Islamic-Christian relations was agreed upon and the importance of appreciating in due manner the Document on Human Fraternity signed by the pope and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb during their historic meeting in the United Arab Emirates in 2019" along with the "joint efforts they have been deploying for years to spread the culture of dialogue and coexistence among believers in revealed religions." 

"I have reassured the Pope and Vatican officials - continues the premier - that Lebanon will remain a place of encounter and different civilizations and cultures, and that the Lebanese of all community affiliations will continue to defend and strengthen this great value that is the Islamic-Christian coexistence." Mikati claims to have heard from some leaders of the Holy See words of encouragement and related to the importance of maintaining national reconciliation among Lebanese. The Lebanese leader then called for the development of a culture of dialogue and tolerance between Muslims and Christians who believe in one God" and who "firmly reject hatred, intolerance, oppression in all its forms and in all places".

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