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Pope Francis announces Sept. 4 will be a day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon


A Lebanese priest got the pope's attention before the start of the General Audience.

Pope Francis stopped to talk to him. He kissed the Lebanese flag and then spent a moment in prayer.

Following his catechesis, while he extended greetings in different languages, the pope dedicated a few special words to the tragedy in Lebanon.

He asked the priest who had shown him the flag to join him. As he held the flag, Pope Francis said that Lebanon is a unique model of coexistence and tolerance in the region, and that it's heritage shouldn't be lost.

POPE FRANCIS
“I encourage all Lebanese people to continue to hope and find the strength necessary to restart. I ask politicians and religious leaders to commit, with sincerity and transparency, to the task of reconstruction, setting aside interests, and looking to the common good and the future of the nation. I renew also my invitation to the international community, to sustain the country and help it emerge from the serious crisis, without letting it be caught up in regional tensions.”

He encouraged the people of Lebanon, specifically the inhabitants of Beirut, to remain in their country. He also asked the Church in Lebanon to stay close to the people and to set an example of austerity, because it's important to maintain a Christian presence in the country as a promoter of fraternity between the 17 religious denominations that coexist there.

Pope Francis also presented this proposal.

POPE FRANCIS
“For this reason, I would like to invite everyone to live a universal day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon on Friday, Sept. 4. I intend to send a representative of mine that day to accompany the people. That day, the Secretary of State will be there on my behalf.”

He concluded like this—in prayer—with this appeal for the good of a country that has been facing disaster after disaster for decades. The Lebanese people once more weep for their children. They suffer with hundreds of wounded people, and they seek to repair immeasurable material damages.