On Thursday, Pope Francis met with Lebanon’s Prime Minister, comparing the country to a sick person and promising to do everything in his power to help it “rise again.”
The Vatican said in a statement that Pope Francis and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who assumed office in September following a year-long government vacuum, met privately for around 20 minutes and addressed the country’s catastrophic economic and social problems.
The aftermath of Lebanon’s financial meltdown in 2019 has left large swaths of the country impoverished, and international donors are seeking an audit of the central bank as well as financial reforms before releasing funding.
United Nations agencies have warned of social disasters, with one report claiming that more than half of households in Lebanon had at least one kid who skipped a meal as living circumstances deteriorated dramatically.
After the private meeting, Francis informed the extended Lebanese delegation, “Lebanon is a country, a message, and even a promise worth fighting for.”
He then referenced the Gospel tale of Jairus, in which Jesus raises the man’s 12-year-old daughter from the dead. When Jesus assured the parents that she was simply asleep, the girl awoke.
“I hope that the Lord will grab Lebanon by the hand and say, ‘Arise,'” the pope added, noting that the country was going through a “particularly terrible, unpleasant era” in its history.
“I guarantee you of my prayers, my proximity, and my resolve to engage diplomatically with nations to unify with Lebanon in order to help it rise again,” he added.
The apparently never-ending crisis has devalued Lebanon’s currency by more than 90%, increased poverty, and driven many Lebanese to leave.
Mikati’s administration was created after a year of political wrangling over cabinet positions, which only exacerbated the problem.
On the first anniversary of the massive chemical attack at Beirut Port, which killed 200 people and inflicted billions of dollars in damage, Francis pledged to visit Lebanon as soon as the situation allowed.