Maronite Catholic patriarch welcomes Lebanon’s new government

Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch, at the Vatican March 5, 2013. / InterMirifica.net

Rome Newsroom, Sep 14, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The leader of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholics has welcomed the formation of a new Lebanese government after 13 months of political stalemate.

Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai congratulated Prime Minister Najib Mikati, President Michel Aoun, and the new cabinet of 24 ministers in a social media post that wished the government success in carrying out reforms and improving the living conditions for all Lebanese people.

The formation of a government paves the way for a potential papal visit to Lebanon.

Pope Francis previously said that he wanted to visit Lebanon once its leaders formed a government.

“His Holiness the pope will visit Lebanon but after a government is formed. And this is a message to the Lebanese, that we must form a government so that everyone can gather… to revive Lebanon with our friends,” Lebanese politician Saad Hariri said after a private meeting with the pope in April.

A Vatican official confirmed in June that the pope intended to visit Lebanon once it successfully formed a government, adding that the trip could take place at the beginning of next year.

Rai was in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, for the International Eucharistic Congress when the news of the formation of a new government was announced on Sept. 10.

The Lebanese cardinal had been calling on the country’s political leaders for months to overcome partisan interests and form a government to help the country amid its economic crisis.

Lebanon’s new ministers face the challenge of coming into power at a time when three-quarters of the population live in poverty and there are widespread shortages of medicine, fuel, and food.

The World Bank has described Lebanon’s financial situation as among the “most severe crisis episodes globally since the mid-19th century.”

It estimates that country’s real GDP contracted by more than 20% in 2020, with surging inflation and high unemployment.

Lebanon’s currency has plummeted in 2021. By June, the Lebanese pound had lost 90% of its value since October 2019.

In recent months, the state has only been able to provide electricity for less than two hours a day.

Speaking at a Vatican day of prayer for Lebanon this year, Pope Francis said: “In these woeful times, we want to affirm with all our strength that Lebanon is, and must remain, a project of peace. Its vocation is to be a land of tolerance and pluralism, an oasis of fraternity where different religions and confessions meet, where different communities live together, putting the common good before their individual interests.”

The pope hosted the day of prayer for Lebanon with Catholic and Orthodox leaders from the country on July 1.

“Here I would reiterate how essential it is that those in power choose finally and decisively to work for true peace and not for their own interests. Let there be an end to the few profiting from the sufferings of many. No more letting half-truths continue to frustrate people’s aspirations,” the pope said.

“Stop using Lebanon and the Middle East for outside interests and profits. The Lebanese people must be given the opportunity to be the architects of a better future in their land, without undue interference.”

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