On Monday, it was announced that on the way back from his historic Iraq tour, the Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, expressed a desire to visit Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, next. According to Reuters, Pope Francis said he badly wanted to visit Lebanon as soon as possible to show solidarity with the people of all religions suffering there.
“The Pope’s visit to Iraq, and his powerful call to address the challenges in the region, has implications for both external powers and national governments,” explained Hombeline Dulière, CAFOD’s Emergency Programme Manager, based in Lebanon.
“The possibility that Pope Francis’ next trip to the Middle East may be to Lebanon is welcome news needed by communities who have faced immeasurable suffering and hardship.”
During his visit to Iraq, Pope Francis was praised for addressing sensitive, but critical challenges in the wider Middle East – calling for steps to address the root causes of the crises in the region, the protection of those forcibly displaced and respect of human rights.
“For families living in Lebanon, the past eighteen months have brought one crisis after another,” said Dulière. “Between uncontrolled Covid-19 outbreaks and some of the strictest lockdowns worldwide, to the Beirut explosion, which killed hundreds and left 300,000 homeless, and skyrocketing prices due to the economic crisis, many have already reached a breaking point.”
According to The World Bank, in Lebanon, 1.7 million people have fallen under the poverty line and 22 per cent of the population is expected to fall into extreme poverty. This is excluding the one million Syrian refugees who have sought refuge within Lebanon’s border: nine out of ten Syrian refugee families in Lebanon are now living in extreme poverty.
Dulière continued: “Addressing the dire situation in Lebanon requires solidarity between the international community and the people within the country who are trying to build a better future.
“After seeing the effect that the Pope’s visit had in Iraq, and the worldwide attention it brought to the country, it is clear a visit to Lebanon will help the few seeds of hope that remain to flourish.”