Standing beside a waving Lebanese flag, Pope Francis paid homage to the troubled population of Beirut on Wednesday (Sept. 2) and implored its residents to “take courage” as they begin the reconstruction of their city.
“I encourage all Lebanese to continue hoping and finding the strength and energy that are necessary to restart,” Francis said in the courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, during his first public audience since the beginning of the pandemic in Italy.
“I ask politicians and religious leaders to commit with sincerity and transparency to the reconstruction work, setting aside partial interests and looking at the common good and future of the nation,” he added.
On Aug. 4 a powerful explosion in Beirut destroyed the city’s port and killed more than 100 people, leaving many more injured. The blast wreaked havoc on the tenuous fabric of the Lebanese society, allowing sectarian interests to resurface in a country marred by civil unrest and a financial crisis.
This is the pope’s second appeal for the struggling Middle Eastern nation since the explosion. During his Angelus prayer Aug. 9, Francis asked that Lebanese people and the entire international community work together “for the common good of this beloved country.”
A priest from the Lebanese congregation of Maronite missionaries, the Rev. Georges Breidi, who studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, held up the Lebanese flag next to Pope Francis, who kissed it before making his appeal for peace and reconstruction.
“For over a hundred years, Lebanon has been a country of hope,” he said. “Even in the darkest times of its history, the Lebanese people held on to their faith in God and proved their ability to make their land a place of tolerance, respect, conviviality that is unique in the region.”