From Beirut, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, says that Pope Francis will “soon visit Lebanon,” reported the French-language Lebanese daily L’Orient le Jour on February 1.
Archbishop Gallagher, the linchpin of Vatican diplomacy, arrived in Beirut on Monday for a five-day official visit to the couentry plagued by a serious economic, social, and political crisis. He will meet with the highest political and religious authorities of the country.
After a meeting with President Michel Aoun on February 1, the British prelate responded to the press. “[Pope Francis] will visit Lebanon, that’s what he told me before my visit to Beirut,” Archbishop Gallagher said. He did not specify a date.
A papal trip to the Land of the Cedars has been seriously considered by the Vatican for at least a year. In March 2021, on the return flight from his trip to Iraq, Pope Francis said he had promised to visit the country in crisis.
In June 2021, Archbishop Gallagher mentioned a papal trip between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, if a new government was formed. A few days after this statement, an “ecumenical summit for peace in Lebanon” was held in the Vatican.
Last November, the Argentinean pope received in audience at the Vatican the president of the Council of Ministers Najib Mikati, who had been appointed head of the Lebanese government a few weeks earlier.
The last visit of a pope to this country dates back to that of Benedict XVI in September 2012. John Paul II visited in 1997. The first pope to set foot in Lebanon was Paul VI in 1964; he was on a stopover to reach India and did not leave Beirut International Airport.
“We pray that Pope Francis will come to remind us how important it is to live in fraternity, the only way to ensure the existence of Christians and other communities here,” Bishop Edouard Daher, Greek-Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Tripoli and North Lebanon, told I.MEDIA in March 2021.