The Pope met privately with Prime Minister Najib Mikati for a 20-minute discussion at the Vatican on Nov. 25. “Lebanon is a country, a message, and also a promise to fight for,” Pope Francis said after the two exchanged gifts in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, according to the Vatican.
Mikati presented the pope with a brick from the Melkite Catholic Church of the Savior, which was badly damaged by the Beirut port explosion in August 2020.
Pope Francis assured Mikati of his prayers for the efforts to help Lebanon get back on its feet. He recalled the Gospel passage, in which Jesus takes Jairus’ daughter by the hand and says to her: “Arise.” “Lord God, take Lebanon by the hand and say, ‘Arise!’” the pope prayed.
“The meeting was an opportunity to reiterate how important it is to promote not only the notion of full citizenship for all Lebanese, but also peaceful coexistence, so that Lebanon continues to be a message of peace and brotherhood that rises from the Middle East,” a Vatican statement said.
The formation of a government in Lebanon after 13 months of political stalemate paves the way for a potential papal visit to the country. Pope Francis previously said that he wanted to visit Lebanon once its leaders formed a government.
Lebanon’s new prime minister faces 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.