A nearly 150-year-old church badly damaged by the Beirut port explosion is due to reopen in July.
The Church of St. Joseph has been restored with funds from Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation.
Located less than two miles from the port of Beirut, the church’s windows and wooden doors were destroyed by the Aug. 4 explosion, which also damaged the pitched roof and lighting fixtures.
Before the explosion, the Jesuit-run church supported a diverse Lebanese Catholic community, offering Masses in French, English, and Arabic in the Maronite rite.
Aid to the Church Need is one of the Catholic aid groups affiliated with the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), which Pope Francis received in an audience at the Vatican on June 24.
“I thank you for your efforts to support Lebanon in this grave crisis,” the pope said in the meeting with the ROACO assembly participants.
The pope also asked people to pray for his upcoming meeting with Lebanese Christian leaders at the Vatican on July 1, that “the Holy Spirit will enlighten and guide us.”
“I would also like, through you, to extend my gratitude to all those who support and make possible your projects: ordinary members of the faithful, families, parishes, and volunteers who understand what it means to be ‘brothers and sisters all’ and who devote a portion of their time and resources to assisting you in the services you provide,” Francis said.
“I have been told that the income from the 2020 collection for the Holy Land was only about half of that received in previous years,” he said.
Pope Francis stressed the importance of continuing to support the Church in the Holy Land through charitable contributions, as St. Paul described in his letters.
“While the crisis may have encouraged us to focus on what is essential, we cannot remain indifferent when we think of the deserted streets of Jerusalem and the loss of those pilgrims who go there to strengthen their faith, but also to express concrete solidarity with the local Churches and their people,” he said.
Pope Francis said that he hoped to see God’s “bow of peace” over the Holy Land, where, he said, the “skies have been darkened by missiles bringing destruction, death, and fear.”
“The pleas for help rising from Syria are never far from God’s heart, yet do not seem to have touched the hearts of leaders in a position to affect the destiny of peoples,” he said.
“We think of the continuing scandal of 10 years of conflict, millions of internally and externally displaced persons, the victims and the need for reconstruction, all held hostage to partisan thinking and the lack of courageous decisions for the good of that war-torn nation.”
ROACO’s 94th assembly took place in Rome on June 21-24. Other aid agencies affiliated with ROACO include Caritas Internationalis, Missio, and Malteser International.
Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, were among the attendees at the Rome assembly, as well as papal representatives in Lebanon, Iraq, Ethiopia, Armenia, and Georgia.
“Your own way of life is important, for it helps pastors and faithful to concentrate on what is essential and helpful for the proclamation of the Gospel, as together you show the face of a Church that is a Mother, with particular concern for the poor and the vulnerable,” Pope Francis said.
“If at times it is necessary to reconstruct buildings and cathedrals, including those destroyed by war, we need to be concerned above all for the living stones who have been wounded and dispersed.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
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