ROME — Pope Francis received Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri for a private meeting in the Vatican on Thursday.
The director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, said the audience lasted about thirty minutes, during which the pope reiterated his closeness to the Lebanese people, who are going through a period of great difficulty and uncertainty.
Francis also underscored the responsibility of all political forces to commit themselves with urgency to the good of the nation.
The pope reaffirmed his desire to visit Lebanon as soon as the conditions are right, while expressing his hope that Lebanon “will once again embody the Land of the Cedars, the diversity that moves from weakness to strength in a great, reconciled people, with its vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence, and pluralism,” Bruni said.
For his part, Hariri said he asked the Vatican “to be concerned about Lebanon and to intervene where they can be effective because this is what concerns Lebanon and the Lebanese.”
“We are in a very bad situation, but once we form a government we can stop the collapse,” he said.
As Breitbart News reported, in early April the pope sent an “urgent” invitation to Mr. Hariri to meet with him in the Vatican, reportedly so Francis could help mediate between the PM-designate and President Michel Aoun in the formation of Lebanon’s new government.
In late 2019, Hariri resigned as prime minister following mass protests concerning the country’s dire economic situation but was again chosen as prime minister on October 22, 2020.
In the intervening six months, Hariri has not been able to form a Cabinet amid deep disagreements between him and Aoun.
Recently, Hariri has been visiting the Middle East and Europe to gain support for his efforts to form a government and has met with leaders in France, Turkey, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
On Easter, Pope Francis thanked Lebanon publicly for its role in generously “taking in many refugees who have fled from the conflict in Syria.”
“May the people of Lebanon, who are undergoing times of difficulty and uncertainty, experience the consolation of the Risen Lord and find support from the international community in their vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence and pluralism,” the pontiff stated.
Lebanon’s financial crisis has been worsening and on March 29, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri warned Lebanon could sink like the Titanic without the formation of a stable government.
In an address to Parliament, Speaker Berri compared Lebanon to the doomed luxury liner. “If it sinks, everyone will drown,” he said. “The time has come to wake up because in the end, if the ship sinks, no one will survive.”
During his return flight to Rome from Iraq on March 8, Francis told journalists aboard the papal plane he had promised to visit Lebanon when conditions are favorable.