It estimates that Lebanon’s real GDP contracted by more than 20% in 2020, with surging inflation, high unemployment, and more than half of the population below the national poverty line.
The country’s 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.
Lebanon also hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, according to the U.N. The country took in 1.5 million Syrians, nearly half of which are not registered with legal status.
Some of the already vulnerable refugee population were hit so hard by the inflation caused by Lebanon’s severe economic depression that they now live in an abandoned mall on the outskirts of Beirut.
Pope Francis met with Hariri in April and expressed his closeness to the Lebanese people as they live “a time of great difficulty and uncertainty.”
The pope also hosted a day of prayer for Lebanon on July 1 that brought Catholic and Orthodox leaders to the Vatican to discuss the crisis facing the country.
Vatican officials have repeatedly stated that the pope intends to visit Lebanon when the country forms a government.
The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States confirmed on July 7 that the pope has “made a commitment to visit Lebanon.”
“He has also said that he will visit Lebanon when there is a government. So that’s a great stimulus to form a government,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said.
“We’re trying to do small steps, move forward, see what the reaction is. But we are appealing at the same time to the international community to do everything in its power to help Lebanon at this critical time,” he said.
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.