Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut Aug. 4, 2020. A massive explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital, injuring many people and blowing out windows in buildings in the city’s port region. (CNS photo/Mohamed Azakir, Reuters)
Aug. 4, 2020
Catholic News Agency
A Lebanese Catholic priest has asked believers around the world to pray for the people of his country, after an explosion in a Beirut warehouse injured thousands of people. At least 50 people were reported dead.
“We ask your nation to carry Lebanon in its hearts at this difficult stage and we place great trust in you and in your prayers, and that the Lord will protect Lebanon from evil through your prayers,” Fr. Miled el-Skayyem of the Chapel of St. John Paul II in Keserwan, Lebanon, said in a statement to EWTN News Aug. 4.
“We are currently going through a difficult phase in Lebanon, as you can see on TV and on the news,” the priest added.
Raymond Nader, a Maronite Catholic living in Lebanon, echoed the priest’s call.
“I just ask for prayers now from everyone around the world. We badly need prayers,” Nader told CNA Tuesday.
The explosion in the port area of Lebanon’s capital overturned cars, shattered windows, set fires, and damaged buildings across Beirut, a city of more than 350,000, with a metro area of more than 2 million people.
“It was a huge disaster over here and the whole city was almost ruined because of this explosion and they’re saying it’s kind of a combination of elements that made this explosion,” Antoine Tannous, a Lebanese journalist, told CNA Tuesday.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Lebanese officials have identified the source of the explosion as a port warehouse full of ammonium nitrate, which is highly explosive. The material had been in the warehouse for six years. Lebanon’s security service warned against speculations of terrorism before investigators could fully assess the situation.
According to Lebanon’s state-run media, hundreds of injured people have flooded hospital emergency rooms in the city.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has declared that Wednesday will be a national day of mourning. The country is almost evenly divided between Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Christians, most of whom are Maronite Catholics. Lebanon also has a small Jewish population, as well as Druze and other religious communities.
A Maronite priest from Lebanon has expressed concern that the country may face food shortages in the wake of Tuesday’s explosion at Beirut’s port.
The explosion “happened at the biggest docks in Lebanon and they also have big reservoirs of wheat, the central reservoirs are there, and these have gone, have gone to ashes. That’s another tragedy in the making because they will have shortages,” Fr. Maxim Baz, who is serving in Rome, told CNA Aug. 4.
Fr. Baz said his country “has been undergoing for the past decades one tragedy after another, really suffering in silence,” citing a financial crisis, the coronavirus, and the civil war of 1975-90.
“It seems that this country is just trying to come out of the darkness and every time it does it receives another blow,” he lamented.
“A Catholic is always close to those who suffer. That’s the distinctive trait of a Catholic and that is a distinctive trait of the Church,” Fr. Baz noted. “Wherever there is suffering, or wherever there is extreme, extreme vulnerability, there the Church is because there God is, actually. So a Catholic can not not be there, at least with their hearts, with their prayers, with their moral support.”