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Vatican Committee Visits Beirut to Complete Preparations for Pope's Visit

Vatican Committee Visits Beirut to Complete Preparations for Pope's Visit

Sunday, 24 April, 2022 - 09:15
Pope Francis holds a weekly general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, April 28, 2021. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

Pope Francis' visit to Lebanon on June 12-13 is of great importance to many Lebanese who see it as a gateway to hope after all the difficulties that the country has experienced since 2019.

Preparations are underway for the Pontiff's visit, in coordination between Lebanese and Vatican officials.

In mid-April, the cabinet assigned Tourism Minister Walid Nassar to chair a ministerial committee to prepare for the Pope’s visit.

The Maronite Patriarchate appointed Archbishop Michel Aoun to represent the Catholic Church in the committee.

Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the Papal Ambassador to Lebanon sent the Vatican a draft of the visit program established by the executive body of the Council of Patriarchs with the Papal Embassy, in coordination with the Presidential Palace.

According to Nassar, a Vatican committee will visit Lebanon on April 27 to closely review the program and visit the sites that the Pontiff will tour.

Nassar told Asharq Al-Awsat that he will have completed the formation of the media, financial, logistical, and security committees that will organize the visit.

He revealed that the Pope wants his visit to Lebanon to be "modest and simple," considering that it will be "national and spiritual," as he will call for a culture of dialogue, peace, and love.

After all the turmoil they went through in the past few years, the Lebanese people proved that they are strong, and the Pope's visit will be a positive shock after all the adverse shocks, most notably the explosion of the Beirut Port, said the Minister.

Archbishop Aoun stresses that the visit "gives hope to the Lebanese people.”

The Pontiff will stress the importance of Lebanon and its role, said Aoun, adding that the international community must not abandon it as a country of coexistence and interaction of civilizations.

He asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Vatican resorts to diplomacy to urge countries to help Lebanon.

The Archbishop reveals that the Pope's visit program includes "a public mass in Beirut, a meeting with President Aoun and officials at the Presidential Palace, and a meeting with spiritual authorities and heads of sects."

The Pope will also meet Lebanese youth and hold a prayer at the Beirut port without public attendance.

Pope Francis, 85, expressed his desire to visit Lebanon and sent several messages of support to Lebanon and its people over the recent months.

During his visit to Cyprus last December, he expressed "grave concern" about the Lebanese crisis.

In a speech delivered to the Maronite Church officials, the Pope said he was "greatly concerned" over the situation in Lebanon, adding: "I am sensitive to the sufferings of a people wearied and tested by violence and adversity."

"I carry in my prayer the desire for peace that rises from the heart of that country."

Last August, Pope Francis called on the international community to provide concrete initiatives for Lebanon, a year after the Beirut port explosion, which killed more than 200 people and injured more than 6,500 others.

Pope Paul VI was the first pope to visit Lebanon in 1964. He stopped for fifty minutes at Beirut International Airport on his way to Bombay.

He expressed his concern for Lebanon, hoping that it would remain safe.

In 1997, Pope John Paul II visited Beirut to deliver the "Apostolic Exhortation" entitled "A New Hope for Lebanon."

The visit was described as "historic," given the large popular reception, during which the Pope declared "Lebanon the Message."

The last visit of a Pontiff to Lebanon was in 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI visited Beirut, calling for religious freedom across the Middle East.

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