Pope promises Lebanon visit, calls for end to political deadlock
On Thursday, Pope Francis told Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri that he will visit the region, but only after political factions set aside their disagreements for the sake of the citizens.
According to the Vatican, Hariri, who would also speak with Italian representatives during his brief stay, spoke with the pope for about 30 minutes.
Hariri later informed Lebanese television that the Pope would come, but only after the country’s fractious leaders could negotiate on a new cabinet.
“I clarified the difficulties we are facing to His Holiness Pope Francis and begged His Holiness to assist Lebanon,” Hariri said.
“His Holiness, Pope Francis, will visit Lebanon after a government is installed. And this is a message to the Lebanese that we must establish a government so that everybody can come together… to resurrect Lebanon with our friends “He said.
According to a Vatican statement, Francis “reaffirmed his closeness to the Lebanese people, who are living through very challenging and unpredictable times, and spoke of the immediate duty of all political powers to dedicate themselves to the benefit of the country.”
Hariri, a three-time prime minister, resigned in 2019 after national demonstrations against a political establishment criticised for dragging the country into turmoil.
He was re-nominated prime minister in October, but has yet to shape a new government due to disagreements with President Michel Aoun.
Lebanon is still recovering from last year’s massive chemical explosion at Beirut port, which killed 200 people and caused billions of dollars in destruction, further crippling an already fragile economy.
Francis, who first promised to visit in his Christmas letter, encouraged the international community to assist the country in getting back on its feet, according to the release.
Lebanon also requested assistance from Russia and other nations.
Earlier this month, German firms such as Hamburg Port Consulting proposed a multibillion-dollar proposal to redevelop the port and surrounding areas, while French container shipping company CMA CGM has stated that it was working on a plan to revive the port.
Neither initiative will go forward before Lebanon’s leaders crack the political impasse that has blocked the establishment of a new government and delayed structural changes, which Western countries insist must come before assistance or investment.