Pope Francis has asked Catholics and all people of goodwill to observe Sept. 4 as a day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon.
As Pope Francis greeted people gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace for his general audience Sept. 2, Fr. Georges Briedi, a member of the Congregation of Lebanese Maronite Missionaries, held up a Lebanese flag.
The pope kissed the flag and then bowed his head in prayer.
He had aides escort Fr. Briedi to the front of the crowd and, at the end of the audience, he called the 35-year-old Lebanese priest up to stand alongside him. “Hold out the flag,” the pope said.
Pope Francis reminded people gathered in the courtyard or watching on television that on Aug. 4 a massive explosion at the port of Beirut killed at least 180 people, wounded 6,000 and displaced as many as 300,000 others from their homes.
It was a major blow to the people of Lebanon, who already were dealing with severe political and economic challenges.
Pope Francis quoted what St. John Paul II had said of Lebanon some 30 years ago about “the extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country. Lebanon cannot be abandoned in solitude.”
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