Pope calls for help in Lebanon one year after explosion

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) – On the first anniversary of a deadly explosion in Beirut, Pope Francis said Lebanon needs concrete help – not just words – from the international community so that it may reappear as a symbol of brotherhood and peace for the Middle East.

“I think first and foremost of the victims and their families, of the many injured and those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. So many people have lost the will to continue, ”he said after his general audience in the Paul VI courtroom on August 4.

“Dear people of Lebanon, I sincerely desire to visit you and I continue to pray for you, so that Lebanon will again be a message of peace and brotherhood for the whole Middle East,” he said.

In the early evening of August 4, 2020, a massive explosion at a warehouse at the port destroyed large parts of the center of the capital, killing at least 214 people and injuring thousands more. It has displaced 300,000 people.

The explosion – caused by an improperly stored inventory of ammonium nitrate fertilizer – was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. Demonstrations were planned in the city on August 4, denouncing a lack of justice, transparency and accountability regarding the causes of the explosion and those responsible.

Meeting on August 3, an international support group for Lebanon made up of world leaders urged authorities to complete their investigations and bring justice to the survivors.

On August 4, French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary General António Guterres organized a donors’ conference to raise $ 357 million in aid to meet the country’s most urgent needs, by providing food , education, health care and drinking water. However, some world leaders have said their aid will be conditional on Lebanon establishing a government capable of fighting corruption. Lebanese leaders have been unable to reach agreement on forming a new government over the past 10 months, delaying reforms and tackling current crises.

After his audience address on August 4, Pope Francis appealed to the international community, asking it to help Lebanon, “not only with words but with concrete actions to undertake a journey of resurrection”.

He said he hoped the conference led by France and the UN would prove successful.

He recalled the day of prayer for Lebanon, hosted on July 1 at the Vatican, during which the leaders of Christian churches reflected on the hopes and expectations of the Lebanese people, also “tired and disillusioned”, and prayed for may God give the “” glimmer of hope to overcome this difficult crisis.

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