Pope Francis is set to visit Lebanon in June, the country’s presidency said on Tuesday, in a long-awaited trip that comes amid spiralling financial and political crises.
Lebanon, home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, has been gripped by an unprecedented economic downturn since 2019, with more than 80 percent of the population now living in poverty.
The pontiff, who has received Lebanon’s president and prime minister in the Vatican in recent months, had previously promised to visit the country and repeatedly expressed concern over its worsening crises.
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“Apostolic Envoy Joseph Spiteri informed President Michel Aoun that Pope Francis will visit Lebanon next June,” a presidency statement said.
“The Lebanese people have been waiting for this visit for some time to express gratitude to his holiness for his support,” the statement said, adding the exact date and agenda for the visit would be set later.
Lebanese took to social media to celebrate the announcement.
“A welcome to the pope of peace in the holy land,” said one user.
The Vatican has not confirmed Pope Francis’ trip, but usually confirms such visits nearer the time.
Lebanon, a multi-confessional country of some six million people, is home to a Muslim majority but Christians account for around a third of the population.
Pope Francis’ planned visit, coming after Lebanese parliamentary elections scheduled for May 15, would be the third by an incumbent pope to the country since the end of its 1975-1990 civil war.
The last trip in 2012 saw Pope Benedict XVI visit to appeal for peace, months after the start of the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
Pope John Paul II visited in 1997, drawing one of the largest crowds Lebanon had ever seen.
“Lebanon is more than a country — it is a message,” he said at the time.