Pope Promises to Help Moribund Lebanon Rise Again 

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Pope Francis met with Lebanon’s prime minister on Thursday, likening the country to a dying man and promising to do everything in his power to help it “resurrect”.

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The Vatican said in a statement that Francis and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who took office in September after a year-long government vacuum, met in private for nearly 20 minutes and discussed the country’s devastating economic and social crisis.

The fallout of Lebanon’s financial collapse in 2019 has left the country in poverty and foreign donors are demanding an audit of the central bank and financial reforms before releasing the funds.

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UN agencies have warned of social devastation, with a report saying more than half of families in Lebanon had at least one child who skipped meals amid a dramatic deterioration in living conditions.

“Lebanon is a country, a message and even a promise worth fighting for,” Francis told the expanding Lebanese delegation after the private meeting.

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He then referred to the gospel story of Jairus in which Jesus raised the 12-year-old daughter of a man who was believed to have died. Jesus told the parents that she was only sleeping and when Jesus gave the command, the girl got up.

“I pray that the Lord will hold Lebanon by the hand and say ‘Get up’,” the Pope said. He said the country was passing through a “very difficult, ugly phase” of its history. “I promise you my prayers, your closeness and working diplomatically with countries to help them rise again with Lebanon.”

The seemingly never-ending crisis has plunged the Lebanese currency by more than 90%, causing skyrocketing poverty and forcing many Lebanese to flee. After a year of political struggle over cabinet seats, Mikati’s government was finally formed, adding to the crisis.

In August, on the first anniversary of the massive chemical explosion at the port of Beirut that killed 200 people and caused billions of dollars in damage, Francis promised to go to Lebanon as soon as the situation allowed.

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