Lebanese Christians stand with Pope Francis to lift a country out of its crises
Tomorrow's much-anticipated Vatican meeting comes with many economic, social and spiritual expectations. The Holy See backs an International Conference on Lebanon. Neutrality is a tough issue given the desire not to close diplomatic channels with Hezbollah. From Lebanon as a “message” to a country based on “citizenship and responsibility”.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Anticipation is building in Lebanon, especially among Christians, over the day of reflection and prayer called by Pope Francis for tomorrow in the Vatican in the presence of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs and Christian leaders.
The event comes with many political, economic, social and spiritual expectations because it involves the identity of a country in crisis, a rudderless government, and an economy on the verge of collapse.
Speaking to L'Orient-Le Jour (LOJ) Fr Fadi Daou, founder of Adyan, an NGO engaged in interfaith dialogue, noted that “the salient point will be the speech that the pope will deliver at the end of the day and his reaction to the different approaches by the patriarchs present.”
Christian leaders are “incapable of adopting a common and unified line,” Fr Daou said. “The novelty will not come from the patriarchs”, whose voices have for months sounded like a broken record, but “from what the Pope will say”.
The latter might include a role for the Holy See at “an international conference on Lebanon”, which is something the Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi has been calling for months.
The country’s various Eastern Churches have responded in various ways to this request as well as to the Patriarch’s call for Lebanon’s “neutrality”.
Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox bishops have expressed reservations on that matter, preventing the formulation of a joint document for Rome.
This difference of opinion is probably due to the fact that the Orthodox patriarchs are in Damascus and such a proposal might seem hostile to Syria.
The most likely scenario is that the Vatican will recognise “the need” for an international forum for Lebanon, this according to anonymous episcopal source close to the Maronite Patriarchate.
Speaking in February to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis expressed the desire for a “national and international political commitment” to Lebanon’s stability and recovery.
Doubts remain however over the country’s neutrality, not the least because such a position risks closing diplomatic channels with other parties, especially Hezbollah, which is openly hostile.
The background to this involves a dire situation, with a country imploding, in danger of sinking under the blows of simultaneous social, political and economic crises.
Tomorrow’s meeting at the Vatican will include social and spiritual aspects, with a request for greater fidelity to the Gospel and the recent consecration of the Middle East region – torn by war and instability – to the Holy Family.
Urging the patriarchs not to drink from the “poisoned springs of hatred”, the pontiff wants them to “live the prophecy of human brotherhood”, which is found at the core of his encyclical Tutti Fratelli.
Pope Francis is turning the notion of Lebanon as a “message” into a country based on “citizenship and responsibility, human rights and social justice," a Lebanon that the Vatican wants close to an Arab world open to the West and committed to “live the prophecy” of brotherhood in the Arab-Muslim world.