Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, who presented the July 1 initiative on Friday at the Vatican Press Office said the purpose of the day is to “walk together”. He said the Christian community of Lebanon, represented by the heads of respective Churches and Ecclesial Communities, will question itself, reflect and pray together. They will bring to Rome also the “cry of a people, who certainly accompany them in prayer”.
Cardinal Sandri said the day-long initiative will be spiritual in nature and will be brought to a close by a speech by the Pope which, he said, “will certainly contain recommendations and appeals that will emerge from the day’s discussions, which could be important for the future of Lebanon”.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States explained that no politicians are expected for the occasion because the proposal that it strictly “be a religious meeting of Christian communities” came from Lebanon, which the Holy Father accepted. Archbishop Gallagher pointed out that Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his desire to visit Lebanon but would like to do so when the country finds a solution to the political crisis which, however, “cannot be seen on the horizon”. However, the meeting in the Vatican, he said, could make a contribution to this process. At this point, “it is difficult” to envisage a trip by the Pope to Lebanon by the end of the year but it is more likely at the beginning of next year, he said.
“The Lord God has plans for peace. Together for Lebanon,” is the motto that stands out on the logo of the July 1 event. The day will begin at 8.30 am in Santa Marta with the Pope welcoming the leaders of the Lebanese Christian communities and members of their delegations. It will be followed a brief moment of prayer in St. Peter’s Basilica. After 3 separate meetings at different intervals, the day will be brought to a close with a speech by Pope Francis at 6 pm.
Lebanon, a Mediterranean nation of 5 million, has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East and is the only Arab country with a Christian head of state. Christians make up a third of the population.
The Pope has announced the day during his Sunday ‘Angelus” prayer on May 30, explaining the aim was to “pray together for the gift of peace and stability”. He urged for prayers ahead of the meeting so that Lebanon may have “a more serene future.”
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