The Day of Reflection and Prayer for Lebanon, entitled “The Lord God Has Plans of Peace. Together for Lebanon,” began today, July 1, 2021, in the Vatican, with Pope Francis and leaders of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, including the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, present in the country, with their different Rites and Traditions, and also the different Ecclesial Communities born of the Reformation.
Around 8:30 am today (Rome time), the Holy Father welcomed the leaders of the Lebanese Christian Communities and the members of the delegation in Casa Santa Marta. Then they went together to Saint Peter’s Basilica. After praying the Our Father in silence, they came down the steps of the Apostle Peter’s Confession and each one placed a candle as a sign of burning prayer, asking for the Apostle’s intercession.
Then all left the Vatican Basilica and went to the Apostolic Palace, where the first of the three working sessions began at 10:00 am. As happened in Bari’s Saint Nicholas Basilica in the ecumenical event of July 7, 2018, seated around the meeting’s round table were the Apostolic Nuncio in Lebanon, Monsignor Joseph Spiteri, as Moderator, and the ten leaders of the Christian Communities, reported “Vatican News.”
There were three sessions between the morning and the afternoon, each introduced by a speaker. Finally, the final prayer took place at 6:00 pm in Saint Peter’s Basilica, which included the Ambassadors of the Holy See. Invited also were all the men and women’s Religious Communities as well as lay Lebanese residing in Rome. No political personalities were present, as it was decided that the event would have an exclusively religious dimension.
Moreover, the event was attended by some young people, who gave the Christian leaders a lit lamp placed on a candelabrum as a gesture of hope for peace in Lebanon. Finally, the Pontiff pronounced a few words by way of conclusion.
Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites; Youhanna X, Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; Ignatius Aphrem II, Syro-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians; Ignatius Youssef III, Syro-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch; Youssef Absi, Patriarch of Antioch of the Melkite Greeks; Reverend Joseph Kassab, President of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Communities of Syria and Lebanon and Michel Kassarji, Bishop of Beirut of the Chaldeans greeted and prayed with Pope Francis. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States accompanied them.
In the Angelus last June 29, Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the Holy Father mentioned that today the “special day of prayer and reflection for Lebanon would be held. “Together with the leaders of all the Churches present in the Land of the Cedars, we will let ourselves be inspired by the Word of Scripture, which says: ‘The Lord God has plans of peace” (Jeremiah 29:11),’” he said, inviting everyone to “unite with us spiritually, praying that Lebanon will recover from the acute crisis it’s going through and show the world again its face of peace and hope.”
In statements to Exaudi last May 31, Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, said that this meeting of the Pope with the Lebanese Christian leaders will be “a call to go forward” to have “courage to overcome the problems” and to ensure a future for the nation’s Christian Communities.“
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester