On Tuesday, the Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, defended Hezbollah during an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, saying the Iran-backed party “has no influence on the security situation” of Lebanon.
He stressed that the party that “liberated southern Lebanon” from the Israeli occupation is made up of Lebanese, adding that “resisting the occupation is not terrorism,” according to the National News Agency.
His comments led to backlash and anger among Lebanese nationals, including among his Christian community, many expressing their anger.
“It’s a shame to defend this Hezbollah which was listed as a terrorist organization by the nations of the world. The president must not forget how Hezbollah’s weapons had been constantly “directed at Christians,” said a Twitter user.
The Lebanese president also met with his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella. During the meeting, Aoun expressed gratitude for Italy’s solidarity with Lebanon despite all the difficulties, stating that it helped to “heal its wounds” amid the harsh economic crisis.
President Aoun also visited the Vatican where he met Pope Francis. During the 30-minute meeting, the two highlighted the good relations between the Holy See and Lebanon.
The Lebanese president also thanked the Pope for his “solidarity with the Lebanese people during the unprecedented series of crises it is going through.”
“Lebanese, Christians, and Muslims are suffering from the consequences of these crises, and they are determined together to defeat them,” the president added.
He also discussed the issue of massive emigration among the most educated in Lebanon, which “poses a threat to identity and pluralism in Lebanon and contributes to weakening the Christian presence in the East.”
Reportedly, Pope Francis also said that he intends to visit Lebanon, although not specifying a date.
In February, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, told the diplomats that the Vatican is already “studying the possibility for a visit, perhaps even by the end of the year.”