Lebanese Catholics who reside in Rome will also be welcome at the closing prayer in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to Sandri.
“One year after the terrible explosion in the port of Beirut, with its dense clouds that obscured our gaze and filled it with tears, we want to see the sun again together with our brothers and sisters of Lebanon,” the cardinal said.
Lebanon has faced a financial and political crisis for months, as political leaders have failed to form a government to implement reforms after the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port on Aug. 4. The blast killed nearly 200 people, injured 600 others, and caused more than $4 billion in damage.
Before the explosion, the country was already facing severe economic pressure. Unemployment had soared and the national currency had lost at least 80% of its value against the U.S. dollar since 2019, according to AP.
Pope Francis met with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on April 22 at the Vatican, where the Lebanese leader also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Gallagher.
Hariri was given the task of forming a new government last October following the resignations of the leaders Hassan Diab in August and Mustapha Adib in September. This development came less than a year after Hariri himself had resigned as prime minister, on Oct. 29, 2019, in the wake of mass protests.
Confirming a previous statement from Hariri, Gallagher said Friday that Pope Francis would like to visit Lebanon as soon as the country manages to successfully form a government.
“The pope would like to see a government in Lebanon, like so many of us, but that is, at the moment, not forthcoming. It would be the hope that maybe this religious meeting might make some contribution to that process,” he said.
“Whether, if they fail to form a government in months and months and months and months and months, the pope might consider going without a government being formed, I cannot say, but certainly the ideal would be yes.”
As for when a potential papal trip to Lebanon would take place, the archbishop added: “Let’s see … maybe it might be the beginning of next year.”
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.