American, European bishops urge support for Lebanon

CNA 54b05b714cea4 43547 Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon. | Kevin Jones/CNA

A group of American and European bishops released a statement on Tuesday, March 1 calling for increased protections for the people of Lebanon. 

“Lebanon, the Message of Peace and Fraternity, is in Great Danger,” was signed by eight bishops representing six countries. Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, who leads the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, represented the United States as a signatory. 

“Lebanon has long been an example of coexistence between Christians and Muslims,” said the statement,” adding that Pope Francis referred to the country as “a universal message of peace and fraternity arising from the Middle East.” 

“For many of its people, this current time is marked by pain, poverty, and despair. However, there remains hope for change, to protect the unique character of their country,” said the bishops. 

Lebanon has been in the grips of an economic crisis since August 2019. In 2021, Cardinal Béchara Pierre Raï, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, called for a global conference focusing on protecting Lebanon. 

“We have heard the warning of Pope Francis that ‘Lebanon is in great danger’ and his appeal for us to turn our minds to the ‘unprecedented crisis’ it faces,” said the statement. “We support the Holy See’s continued efforts to seek peace in Lebanon. We pray that Archbishop Paul Gallagher’s calls for dialogue during his visit in February will bear lasting fruit.”

The statement says that the bishops will urge their respective governments to “support Cardinal Raï’s appeal for action through the United Nations to find a solution to the crisis” in a manner that “upholding Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty, and neutrality,” as well as ensure that the citizens of Lebanon to “choose their own representatives in free and fair elections, including through the offer of independent electoral observers,” and “assist the establishment of good governance, honesty, transparency, and accountability in the service of Lebanon’s people.”

“The global community must stand alongside all those working to keep alive the principles that shaped Lebanon’s constitution and helped to end conflict through achievements such as the 1989 Taif Agreement and 2008 Doha Agreement,” said the statement. 

The bishops wrote that their countries “have a responsibility to provide relief for those affected by the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe,” both citizens of Lebanon and refugees from other areas. 

“We are grateful for the humanitarian work of Catholic agencies and encourage our own communities to sustain their efforts,” said the statement. 

The bishops additionally are encouraging all faithful “to join us in prayer for Lebanon.” 

“In the words of the Holy Father: ‘May the night of conflicts recede before a new dawn of hope. May hostilities cease, disagreements fade away, and Lebanon once more radiate the light of peace.’” 

In addition to Malloy, the statement was signed by Bishop Udo Bentz, an Auxiliary Bishop of Mainz and chair of the Working Group on the Middle East, German Bishops’ Conference; Bishop Michel Dubost, bishop emeritus of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes and Apostolic Delegate of Foyers de Charité; Bishop Garry Gordon, Bishop of Victoria and chair of Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton and chair of the Department for International Affairs, Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Bishop Bertram Meier, Bishop of Augsburg and chair of the Commission for International Church Affairs, German Bishops’ Conference; Bishop Rimantas Norvila, Bishop of Vilkaviskis and president of the COMECE Commission on EU External Relations; and Bishop Marc Stenger, Bishop Emeritus of Troyes and co-president of Pax Christi International.

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