Following a meeting between Pope Francis and Lebanese President Michel Aoun, the Pope has announced that he will be visiting Lebanon. Aoun said:
“Lebanon has a special part in the heart of the Pope. He will meet the invitation to visit the country of the Cedars. The popes have always considered Lebanon as a role model, and Lebanon has always looked up to the Holy See with utmost gratitude and appreciation.”
No specific date has been set for when Pope Francis plans to visit Lebanon. During Thursday’s meeting at the Vatican, they discussed the good relations between the Vatican and Lebanon – emphasizing the historic and institutional role of the Church in the life of Lebanon and millions of Lebanese Christians. Pope Francis expressed satisfaction for the efforts of the political parties for finally ending the presidential vacancy – which went on for over 2 and a half years. He emphasised the hope for a more fruitful future collaboration between the members of diverse ethnic and religious communities for the common good and development of Lebanon. The Pope also thanked President Aoun for Lebanon’s welcoming of the estimated 1.5-2 million Syrian refugees. They both called for international efforts to find a political solution to end the conflict. In the regional context, they also discussed the ongoing conflicts and the situation of Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Palestine and Iraq. Regarding Lebanon, Aoun said it was unified – Christians and Muslims alike – in the fight against terrorism. As per tradition in Lebanon, the new president’s first official visit to Europe takes place in Paris and not the Vatican which was the case with Aoun. This could be due to the fact that the French will have a new president in a couple months.