09/04/2020, 13.32
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Card Parolin in Beirut tells Lebanese ‘you are not alone; the whole world is with you'

by Fady Noun

The Vatican Secretary of State travelled to the Lebanese capital to take part on behalf of Pope Francis in the Day of fasting and prayer the pontiff set for today. Card Parolin also met with leaders of Christian Churches and Muslim families. AsiaNews continues its campaign “Help devastated Beirut”.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Secretary of State of the Holy See, Card Pietro Parolin, is in Lebanon on behalf of Pope Francis to take part in today’s Day of fasting and prayer, which the pontiff set for a month after the disaster that devastated Beirut.

Yesterday, during a religious service he led, due to the coronavirus epidemic, in the gardens of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Card Parolin offered some hope to discouraged young Christians, many of whom are thinking of emigration.

"You are not alone in your struggles; the whole world stands in solidarity with you today," the prelate told the young people who were listening to him. “Wait a while and Lebanon will turn into an orchard, and the orchard into a forest", he added, citing the Book of Isaiah.

Trying to encourage the people of Lebanon, drained by a succession of political, economic, financial and health crises, topped by the port explosion, the cardinal tried to encourage the people of Lebanon to regain strength and hold on to hope, citing the story of the miraculous catch in which, heeding the words of Jesus, Saint Peter, after casting his net without success, brought it back full of fish.

Quoting from the Pope’s announcement of the Day of prayer and fasting, Cardinal Parolin said: “take courage once more! Let faith and prayer be your strength. Do not abandon your homes and your heritage. Do not abandon the dreams of those who believed in the dawn of a beautiful and prosperous country.

Allergic to the word resilience

The prelate went on to tell the young people that the whole world admires the exemplary outpouring of solidarity which they showed in the aftermath of the disaster, and referred to "the proverbial resilience of the Lebanese,” something that some young people associate, after the port explosion, to “impunity” and “not asking for accounts,” to which they are now allergic.

"It is true that the Lebanese are overwhelmed, frustrated, under great burdens, but they are not alone," Card Parolin noted. “They are accompanied spiritually, morally and financially.” What is more, the Pope has spoken almost daily over the past month about Lebanon's needs and called on the international community to help the country. "It is true that you rely on yourselves a lot, but you must know that you can count on your friends,” the Secretary of State explained.

In some political circles, it has been noted that the prelate’s visit follows that of French President Emmanuel Macron. They see it as a form of coordination rather than mere coincidence.

“Lebanon is not alone. We stand by your side in silence and solidarity to express our love for you,” Card Parolin said when he arrived, during a first meeting with Christian and Muslim religious dignitaries, as well as representatives of some aid groups (Lebanese Red Cross, Caritas, Adyan Foundation) in the Maronite Cathedral of Saint George, in the presence of Archbishop Boulos Abdelsater of Beirut, the Apostolic Nuncio Joseph Spiteri and Father Fadi Daou, as master of ceremonies.

Held in a church full of scaffolding, the meeting continued in the cathedral's large hall, whose bay windows at the entrance were shattered. All of Lebanon’s Churches were represented at the meeting as were great Muslim families, with Mohammad el-Kardaoui (Dar el-Fatwa), Sheikh Hassan Abdallah (Shia Higher Council) and Sami Aboul Mouna (Druze House).

The "consensual pluralism"

Particularly sensitive, like the Vatican as a whole, to the experience of Lebanon’s “consensual pluralism,” Cardinal Parolin listened attentively to the explanations provided by the main administrator of the Mohammad el-Amine grand mosque, whose windows, stained glass, and chandeliers were damaged or destroyed in the port explosion.

“Lebanon needs the world, but the world needs Lebanon’s unique experience of solidarity and freedom. Together, we will rebuild Beirut,” Parolin said at his arrival.

In a show of solidarity, the sovereign pontiff’s right-hand man also visited the Greek-Orthodox and Greek-Catholic cathedrals, Nejmeh square (Sāheh an-Nedjmeh, place de l'Étoile), as well as the Mohammad el-Amine mosque, also filled with scaffolding up to ceiling.

Upon receiving his guest, Metropolitan Élias Audi informed him of the attempts by some to take advantage of the port disaster to seize certain homes in Gemmayzeh. Greek Catholic Archbishop Georges Bacouni of Beirut welcomed Cardinal Parolin to his cathedral.

Today at 10 am, the Secretary of State went to the Presidential Palace in Baabda, before heading to the devastated port site and spending a moment of contemplation in front of the statue of the Emigrant. His schedule for today also includes a visit to the devastated hospitals in Ashrafieh and a meeting with survivors of the 4 August explosion. After some refreshments at the Patriarchal See of Bkerké, Cardinal Parolin’s visit will take him to some devastated neighbourhoods before proceeding directly to the airport.

In order to help the people of Beirut and Lebanon, as well as Caritas Lebanon, AsiaNews is launching a campaign to ‘Help devastated Beirut’. Those who want to contribute can make a donation to:

PIME Foundation:

- International Bank Account Number (IBAN): IT78C0306909606100000169898

- Bank Identifier Code (BIC): BCITITMM

- Reason for transfer: AN04 – HELP DEVASTATED BEIRUT

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