Pope Francis welcomes Lebanese Christian leaders to the Vatican for a day of prayer
ROME – Pope Francis welcomed Lebanese Christian leaders to the Vatican on Thursday for a day of prayer, amid fears that chaos in the country is further jeopardizing the Christian presence in the Middle East for churches in the Middle East. There is a stronghold.
Francis greeted dozens of clerics in the lobby of the Vatican Hotel where he lives after 8 a.m. and together they walked into a small piazza inside the Vatican Gardens and entered St. Peter’s Basilica. There, they stood in silent prayer around the altar, and descended upon the tomb of the apostle Peter below to light a candle as a sign of peace.
Small groups of Christian Orthodox and Catholic Church people were talking behind closed doors in the morning and afternoon on how to help Lebanon emerge from the political, financial and social crisis that the World Bank declared among the worst in the world. described as one of seen in the last 150 years.
At the end of the day, Francis will preside over an ecumenical service at St. Peter’s featuring prayers in Arabic, Syriac, Armenian and Chaldean.
Lebanon, a Mediterranean country with a population of 5 million, has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East and is the only Arab country where Christian states are dominant. Christians make up a third of the population.
The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, was blunt in explaining the Holy See’s “serious concern about the country’s collapse” during a briefing with reporters last week.
He said Francis had invited religious leaders to Rome in acknowledgment that the Christian community had been particularly badly affected by the crisis, which has left the educated middle class vulnerable to power cuts, fuel shortages, rising prices and now sporadic acts. sent away. Violence.
The crisis, Gallagher said, “risks destroying the internal balance and Lebanon’s own reality, jeopardizing the Christian presence in the Middle East.”
Noting the potential for Lebanon to fall into conflict, he said that the country should be helped financially and peace-keeping, adding that it “remains the last pawn of an Arab democracy that protects ethnic and religious communities”. Welcoming, identifying and coexisting with plurality. Are not able to live peacefully in other countries.”
“This unique identity must be helped to preserve, to ensure a pluralistic, tolerant and diverse Middle East,” he said.
Francis has said he hopes to move to Lebanon once the government is formed. Gallagher said that if that happens soon, Francis could travel early next year.