Bkerké (Agenzia Fides) - The announcement of the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis to Lebanon is "a blessing for the people, a hope for the Fatherland and a warning signal for the leaders". This is how the Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, outlined the scope and the impact that the information published last week on the next papal visit to Lebanon supposes, in the current Lebanese context, scheduled for the month of June (see Fides 6/4/2022). The Patriarch's remarks regarding the announcement of the upcoming papal visit and other recent events of international significance concerning Lebanon were included in the homily he delivered on Palm Sunday, during the Eucharistic liturgy that he presided on Sunday April 10 at the patriarchal seat of Bkirké. Announcing the upcoming papal visit, the Patriarch noted that this visit "is part of the commitment of the Holy See to help Lebanon emerge from its deep crisis and keep it within the system of democratic nations". In this regard, Cardinal Raï recalled the previous papal presences in the Land of Cedars (the brief stopover of Paul VI in 1963 during his trip to India, the trip of John Paul II in 1997 and that of Benedict XVI in 2012). The current Bishop of Rome - continued the Maronite Patriarch - "would also like Lebanon to be in good condition with a political class that places the general interest above everything else". During his homily, the Maronite Patriarch linked the announcement of the next papal visit to Lebanon to two other recent pieces of good news concerning Lebanon: the preliminary agreement concluded by the Lebanese leaders with the experts of the International Monetary Fund to deal with the devastating economic crisis in which the Land of Cedars has sunk, and the return to Beirut of the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who had been withdrawn by their respective governments in 2021 during a phase of diplomatic tensions between Lebanon and the Gulf countries. Referring to these countries, the Patriarch stressed that "Lebanon is their loyal friend, and tens of thousands of Lebanese work there, and contribute to their growth and prosperity through their experience, performance and expertise".
Regarding the upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 15, the Patriarch stressed that the election is an auspicious occasion to "make the difference between the present and the future", and this will be possible if the ballot boxes produce a Parliament "which realizes the dream of change and the will of the people". For this reason, Cardinal Raï stressed, all Lebanese must exercise their right to vote, knowing that participation in the legislative elections is more than ever "a national responsibility, in circumstances that require the renewal of life and political class". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 11/4/2022)