Pope Francis intends to visit Lebanon "as soon as possible" following his visit to Iraq.
The Pontiff was personally invited by Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, to make a stop in Lebanon on his way home to Rome, but said that such a trip would be akin to giving the Lebanese people “crumbs” considering how much they have suffered in recent times. The Pope insisted that he was planning on visiting Lebanon, where people from across the faith spectrum are suffering the effects of a deepening economic crisis.
"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,” said Hombeline Dulière, emergency programme manager from Catholic international development charity, CAFOD.
“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.”
Dulière, who is based in Lebanon, said that the last 18 months have brought the Lebanese population "one crisis after another".
"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," she said.
Some 1.7 million people have fallen under the poverty line in Lebanon, and 22 per cent of the population is expected to fall into extreme poverty, according to figures from the World Bank.
In addition, roughly a million Syrian have sought refuge within Lebanon’s borders, with nine out of ten refugee families in living in extreme poverty.
“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," Dulière added.
“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.”