Pope to host July 1 summit with Lebanon's Christian leaders

Pope to host July 1 summit with Lebanon's Christian leaders
Pope Francis has announced that he will invite Lebanese Christian leaders to the Vatican to pray for “peace and stability” amid a dire economic crisis and crippling political deadlock in Lebanon.
3 min read
Pope Francis announced the summit while giving his weekly Angelus message [AFP]

Pope Francis said on Sunday that he would invite Lebanon's Christian leaders to the Vatican on July 1 to reflect and pray for "peace and stability" in the stricken Middle Eastern nation.

Lebanon is in the throes of a double economic and political crisis.

It is experiencing its worst financial downturn since the 1975-1990 civil war, with more than half the population of five million now living below the poverty line.

In recent weeks, with foreign currency reserves dwindling at the central bank, Lebanon has been witnessing severe shortage in medicines as well as fuel, with people having to wait in line at petrol stations to fill their cars. Electricity cuts last more than 12 hours a day.

Meanwhile, bickering political leaders have yet to agree on a new government to replace the outgoing cabinet of caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab who resigned in the wake of last summer's deadly port explosion.

"On July 1 I will meet in the Vatican with the main leaders of the Christian communities in Lebanon, for a day of reflection on the country's worrying situation and to pray together for the gift of peace and stability", the pope said while delivering his Sunday Angelus message.

He urged the faithful "to accompany the preparation of this event with solidarity prayers, invoking a more peaceful future for that beloved country".


Last April, the Pope met with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and urged all Lebanese political leaders to “urgently commit themselves to the benefit of the nation.”

Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians of any Arab country, with Christians making up over one-third of the population.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, head of the Maronite Catholic church, which is Lebanon’s largest, has criticized the country’s political class and urged them to quickly form a Cabinet to bring Lebanon out of its crisis.

“Excuses are not convincing anyone regarding delays in the formation of a government,” Rai said last week. “It looks like Cabinet formation is in a long vacation. The stalemate is a killing to the country and the people. It must stop.”

During his meeting with Hariri, Francis reaffirmed his desire to visit Lebanon as soon as conditions permit. The July 1 meeting, presumably, will be an opportunity for the pope to express his solidarity now, given that a visit in the near future isn’t possible.

According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president has to be a Maronite Christian and the parliamentary speaker a Shia Muslim, while the prime minister has to be a Sunni. Parliament and Cabinet seats are equally split between Muslims and Christians.

It wasn't immediately clear which representatives of Lebanon's Christian community would be coming to Rome.