By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “Abana alathie,” Pope Francis intoned in Arabic as he led nine Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders from Lebanon in praying the Lord’s Prayer before St. Peter’s tomb.
Beginning a day of prayer and reflection on Lebanon and its religious, political, social and economic challenges, the pontiff and the patriarchs, bishops and pastors walked to St. Peter’s Basilica together July 1 from the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the guesthouse where the Holy Father lives and where the Lebanese visitors were staying.
Tomorrow a special day of prayer and reflection on Lebanon will take place. I invite you all to join spiritually with us, praying that Lebanon may recover from the serious crisis it is going through and show the world once again its face of peace and hope.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 30, 2021
After reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the pontiff and his guests stood in silent prayer for 10 minutes before walking down the stairs under the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica to light candles and continue their silent prayer.
Before the pontiff and his guests arrived, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, told reporters that for Christians, the most important part of the day was “to begin with faith. In Lebanon there are many problems, many difficulties, much suffering.”
“Who can intervene? God, our father,” he said, which is why Pope Francis invited the leaders for a day of prayer and reflection “in the light of God’s grace.”
After the brief morning prayer, the pope and his guests were to spend the day in closed-door meetings in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace with Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, the nuncio to Lebanon, moderating the discussions.
Pope Francis was joined for the day by: Cardinal Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch; Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi; Chaldean Catholic Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut; Bishop Cesar Essayan, Latin-rite apostolic vicar of Beirut; Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X of Antioch; Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Aram of Cilicia; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; and the Rev. Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon.