With Lebanon facing parliamentary elections, economic crisis, religious and civil violence, a visit by Pope Francis could help bring peace to the troubled land.
“President Aoun has been informed by the apostolic nuncio that Pope Francis will visit Lebanon in June,” the Lebanese presidency’s Twitter account read on April 5, 2022. The trip would be Pope Francis’ first to the crisis-hit country, for which he has expressed great concern on numerous occasions. The Holy See said it was “one of the proposals under consideration.”
“The President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, received this afternoon at the Palace of Baabda, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, who gave him a written message informing him that His Holiness Pope Francis had decided to visit Lebanon next June,” said a statement published on the website of the Lebanese presidency.
The text stresses, however, that this trip in June is conditional on “the date of the visit, its program and the date of its official announcement [being] determined, in coordination between Lebanon and the Holy See.”
Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, said this was “one of the proposals under consideration.” Contacted by I.MEDIA, a Catholic bishop in Lebanon said he had just heard the information.
A trip by the pope in June would therefore come a few weeks after the Lebanese parliamentary elections of May 15. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the “linchpin” of Vatican diplomacy, told the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See in February that the holding of these elections was an “indispensable step” to restore stability to the country.
He also confirmed that a trip by the pope to Lebanon was being considered between May and December of this year.
“The pope may be coming in a hurry”
President Aoun expressed “his joy” on learning that the pope had agreed to visit his country, the official statement said. On March 21, he had come to Rome to officially renew his wish to welcome the Argentine pontiff during a private audience at the Vatican.
On many occasions, Pope Francis has been moved by the fate of Lebanon, hit by a serious economic, social and political crisis. In July 2021, he organized an ecumenical summit for peace in Lebanon that brought together Eastern Christian religious leaders at the Vatican.
“The situation in the country is catastrophic and the pope may be coming as a matter of urgency to bring a vision, some hope,” Vincent Gelot, head of projects for Oeuvre d’Orient in Lebanon and Syria, told I.MEDIA. He also points out that by traveling to the country of the Cedars, the Argentine pontiff could also send a message to neighboring Syria.
The next trips of Pope Francis
Officially, the pontiff — who has just returned from a two-day trip to Malta — has planned to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan from July 2 to 7. A trip to Canada at the end of July was also recently mentioned by the pope.
On the plane from Malta to Rome, the head of the Catholic Church said that a meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in the Middle East was being considered.