Pope Francis expressed his wish to visit Lebanon on Wednesday, August 5, a year after the huge chemical explosion in Beirut that killed 200 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.
“Dear Lebanese friends, I greatly desire to visit you and I continue to pray for you, so that Lebanon will once more be a message of peace and fraternity for the entire Middle East,” said the pontiff during his weekly General Audience in the Vatican.
He also appealed to the international community “to offer Lebanon concrete assistance, not only with words but with concrete actions in undertaking a journey of ‘resurrection.’”
“It is my hope that the current International Conference hosted by France with the support of the United Nations will prove productive in this regard,” added the pope.
In his address, Pope Francis said he remembers “all of the victims and their families, the many injured, and those who lost their homes and livelihoods.”
The pope also wished success for French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to raise more than US$350 million in aid for Lebanon at the donors’ conference.
The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said last month the pope’s visit to Lebanon could take place late this year or early next year. He suggested the pope could go even without a government in place.
Several hundred people, nearly all of them wearing masks against COVID-19, attended the indoor gathering in the Paul VI Audience hall, where they are held during the hot summer months.
Pope Francis walked unassisted across the stage and spoke while seated and then later went to greet people in the front row.
The only difference with previous indoor audiences was that he did not walk down the long central aisle.
Pope Francis spent 11 days in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital following surgery on July 4 to remove part of his colon because he was suffering from a severe case of symptomatic diverticular stenosis, or narrowing of the colon.
The Vatican is going ahead with plans for a Sept. 12-15 trip to Slovakia and the Hungarian capital, Budapest. – with a report from Reuters