Pope Francis meets Lebanese PM, calls for national unity
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati visited the Vatican City on Thursday, where he was hosted for a private meeting with Pope Francis.
After the meeting, which lasted around 20 minutes, the Pope called for “the cooperation of all Lebanese in order to save their country,” according to local news reports.
The visit comes amid a catastrophic economic and social crisis in Lebanon, which has left about eight in 10 people in poverty and threatened the education of some 700,000 children, according to UNICEF.
“Lebanon is a country, a message and a promise that must be fought for,” said the Pope during the visit.
“I pray that the Lord will take Lebanon by the hand and say ‘arise’,” he said, referring to the Gospel story of Jairus in which Jesus helps wake a 12-year-old girl thought to be dead.
“I assure you of my prayers, my closeness and promise to work diplomatically with countries so that they unite with Lebanon to help it rise again,” the Pope stated.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati gave #PopeFrancis a brick from a Melkite church severely damaged by the explosion at the Beirut port Aug. 4, 2020. Pope said, "Lebanon is a country, a message & a promise that must be fought for." pic.twitter.com/GGoVWzd6bj— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) November 25, 2021
Pope Francis has repeatedly said that he thinks and prays for Lebanon during this difficult time.
In July, he met with 10 Lebanese Christian leaders to reflect on the country’s dire situation.
On the first anniversary of the Beirut blast, he said he had a “great” desire to visit Lebanon and called for “concrete gestures, not just words” to help the country.
Business tycoon turned politician Mikati gave the pontiff a brick from a Melkite church which was severely damaged by the explosion at Beirut's port on August 4 2020 during Thursday’s visit to Rome.
The explosion - which killed over 200 people - is one of a myriad of misfortunes Lebanon has had to contend with, alongside an economic meltdown and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Political corruption and squabbling, including over the probe into the Beirut blast, has prolonged and exacerbated the country's inability to recover and outraged many of its citizens.
“We are in dire need for prayers and for friends’ support in these hard times,” said Mikati according to Lebanese news site Naharnet.
Mikati may also meet with French President Emmanuel Macron while in Rome, reported Al-Liwaa newspaper.
He will visit Egypt and Turkey next, according to Al-Nahar.