A Moral Calling from the Pope to Lebanon’s Christian Leaders

Monday, May 31, 2021
Opinion by Jean AbiNader

And just like that, the Vatican is challenging Lebanon’s Christian leadership to do what’s best for Lebanon.

Most believe it would take a miracle, but maybe this is the beginning. After the noon prayer on Sunday, May 30, the Pope said “On July 1, I will meet in the Vatican with the main leaders of the Christian communities in Lebanon, for a day of reflection on the country’s worrying situation and to pray together for the gift of peace and stability.”

The “Christian communities” would be quite large if he includes the Orthodox and Protestant churches, other Catholics such as the Melkites, and the leader of the Maronite Catholic Church, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, who has been actively calling for an international conference to begin the process of reconciliation and healing in Lebanon, free from external interference.

With the subsidies due to expire sometime in June, the holdup in Parliament of a World Bank assistance package, and the continued deterioration of the country’s economy, Lebanon continues to be on the brink of extensive disruption.

The lira is in free fall at an official exchange rate on the government’s platform of 12,000 to the dollar and approaching 12,800 on the informal exchange market, while imports are still priced somewhere between the government rate of 1,500 and the bank rate at 3,900 lira to the dollar.

Confused yet? Think of how hard it is for the Lebanese to cope daily with the uncertainty of access to money to pay for essential services. Even when they will regain access to their bank deposits by the end of June, as promised by the Central Bank, it will be limited at a rate that favors the banking sector.

The story about the Pope’s initiative was reported in the 961 which noted that “Earlier this week, Pope Francis sent a letter to President Michel Aoun hoping that the ‘Spirit of Wisdom’ would support Aoun in rescuing Lebanon. It is stipulated that Pope Francis would seek to unite the Christian leaders that have been politically divided and lead them towards working together to saving Lebanon as a top priority.”

Wisdom is not in short supply, only its acceptance. The path forward is clear. The IMF and the international community are waiting for a government that will serve the people and not the interests of a few. The people of Lebanon and the resident refugee population are suffering as their health and well-being become increasingly precarious.

Other calamities and disasters are pulling the world’s attention away from a country whose leaders have lost the sense of urgency and responsibility to unite even on the basic necessities of recovery and renewal.

As the Pope said on Sunday, “the meeting with Lebanon’s Christian leaders would be an opportunity to ‘pray together for the gift of peace and stability.’”

With perhaps a hint of irony, another report mentioned that “The Argentine pontiff has also picked up the metaphor from his predecessor describing Lebanon ‘as the message’ when it comes to coexistence, tolerance, and respect among people of all faiths.”

The suffering of the Lebanese, across all sects, strengthens his message and highlights the sadness of those around the world whose hearts feel Lebanon’s sorrow.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.