ROME: Pope Francis will travel to Lebanon before the end of this year “if conditions permit,” the Vatican’s foreign minister has announced.
At a meeting with ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, Paul Richard Gallagher talked about his visit earlier this month to Beirut to prepare for a possible trip by the pontiff, a diplomatic source told Arab News.
During his stay in Lebanon — marking the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between that country and the Vatican, and the 25th anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II — Gallagher expressed “Francis’s concern and closeness to the Lebanese people and Church at this moment of great difficulty.”
Gallagher told diplomats that his visit “was a very significant experience, both for the pace of the program and for the intensity of the meetings. It allowed me to touch the reality of Lebanon.”
He said he brought “the pope’s closeness and prayers to the Lebanese people, made up of different religions, all equally represented in the constitution.”
Gallagher described Lebanon as “a country afflicted by a painful political stalemate, and suffering from an economic crisis that’s impoverishing the population day after day.” Parliamentary elections scheduled for May “are an indispensable step” to restore stability, he said.
Last November, Pope Francis received in the Vatican Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who officially invited him to visit the country.
Last August, on the anniversary of the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut, the pope launched a new appeal to the international community to help Lebanon with “concrete gestures, not only with words.”