ASIA/LEBANON - Christian leaders summoned to Rome by Pope Francis to pray and reflect together the "signs of the times"
Rome (Agenzia Fides) - In all likelihood, 10 senior representatives of the Churches and ecclesial communities present in Lebanon will take part in the meeting convened in the Vatican by Pope Francis to reflect and pray together on the present and future of the country of the Cedars. In the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace, the round table has already been placed around which the participants will share the three sessions of dialogue and discussion that will mark the intense program of the day.
In addition to Pope Francis, there will also be the Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, Aram I (indicated by some media as the main "inspirer" of the idea of the summit); Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites; the Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek Orthodox Yohanna X Yazigi; Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II; Bishop César Essayan, Apostolic Vicar of Beirut of the Latins; Reverend Joseph Kassab, President of the Supreme Council of Evangelical Communities in Syria and Lebanon; the Syro-Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignace Youssif III Younan; the Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites Youssef Absi and the Bishop of Beirut of the Chaldeans, Michel Kassarji. The meeting will also be attended by Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, Apostolic Nuncio in Lebanon, while at the moment the absence of a representative of the Patriarchate of Cilicia of the Catholic Armenians seems to be confirmed, given that all the Bishops of that patriarchal Church are still in Lebanon to participate in the Synod called for the election of the new Patriarch.
Lebanese analysts consulted by Agenzia Fides express the hope that the summit convened by Pope Francis will not be reduced to repeating the well-known list of complaints and criticisms addressed to the inaction and the sins of the Lebanese political class, but provides an opportunity to look with realism and hope, without censorship and removal, for the "signs of the times" that determine the current, uncertain and dramatic phase, regarding the historical event of the Land of Cedars, always keeping in mind the vocation proper to the ecclesial communities in the Lebanese context.
Despite everything, the coexistence between the 18 religious denominations that make up the Lebanese mosaic has not been seriously infected by the sectarian conflicts that have torn neighboring Syria to other Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq in the last decade. The Lebanese "miracle", suspended in the daily coexistence between Shiite and Sunni Christians and Muslims, always remains at risk, but the tragic memory of the years of the civil war - which also saw Christians killing other Christians, and Muslims killing other Muslims - seems to have sown in the souls of many Lebanese powerful antibodies that resist the pressures of those who would like to reduce the different confessional identities to ideological flags of fronts fighting for power. Now, the anomaly of the Lebanese "great compromise" could find new points of inspiration in the paths of fraternity also suggested by Pope Francis with the Abu Dhabi Document, with the trip to Iraq and the meeting with Ayatollah Ali al Sistani and with the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti. Overcoming the obsolete, manipulative and misleading narratives that especially in the West continue to represent Lebanon as a sort of "Christian stronghold" besieged by Islamic hostility. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 30/6/2021)