Aleteia

Pope surprises priest with Lebanese flag, calling him to microphone

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Maronite priest went to the audience with his flag, knowing Pope Francis is particularly worried about Lebanon.

“We need a miracle to change the hard hearts of those who govern [Lebanon],” Fr. Georges Breidi, a Maronite priest, told I.MEDIA on September 2. He is the priest with the big Lebanese flag that Pope Francis called to his side during the general audience as he announced that Friday, September 4, will be a global day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon.

Father Breidi is a member of the Lebanese Maronite Missionary Congregation. Along with about 500 other pilgrims, he was able to attend the first general audience to be held in public since Italy began its lockdown last spring.

Fr. Breidi has been a student in Rome for four years; he could not have imagined the scene that would occur. Knowing that the Argentinean pontiff was particularly affected by the situation in his country, he went to this audience with a flag. “I was almost sure he was going to bless it,” he said. While the Bishop of Rome did indeed kiss the flag when he arrived, the story didn’t end there. At the end of the audience, with the young priest at his side, the pontiff delivered a long plea for Lebanon.

“I hope that the Holy Father’s message can change something; but to tell the truth we need a miracle to change the hard hearts of those who govern the country, our politicians, who have come to this point because of their corruption,” Father Breidi told I.MEDIA after the audience. “For more than 100 years, Lebanon has been a wealthy class in the Middle East, the Switzerland of the region, but today we’re facing a great catastrophe. I hope that the Holy Father’s message can change hearts so that peace may come.”

Fr. Breidi spoke about the upcoming visit of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope’s Secretary of State, on September 4, during the Day of Fasting and Prayer, also announced by the Bishop of Rome during the audience. “Yesterday it was French President Emmanuel Macron. The Italian Prime Minister will visit Lebanon next week. I hope that this visit on behalf of the Vatican can help increase support.”

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

During his plea dedicated to Lebanon, while holding the Maronite priest’s flag in one hand, Pope Francis called on the political leaders of the country to “commit themselves with sincerity and openness to the work of rebuilding, setting aside all partisan interests and looking to the common good and the future of the nation.”

After his words, the Pope invited the crowd to stand and pray in silence. The pontiff then signaled to the Lebanese priest to speak.

“Thank you, Holiness. We need your support and the support of the universal Church,” the priest spontaneously declared. “We are waiting for you to bless our beloved land.”

Some 300,000 Christians have already presented their documents to emigrate because of the economic and political crisis that this country is going through, he explained to the crowd. When he finished his words, he turned to the pope, who hugged him for a few seconds. A thunderous applause resounded in the San Damaso Courtyard.

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