BEIRUT: Pope Francis will visit Lebanon in June in a long-awaited trip that comes amid a spiraling financial and political crisis.
The pope, who has received Lebanon’s president and prime minister at the Vatican in the past few months, had promised to visit the country and repeatedly expressed concern over its economic meltdown.
“The Lebanese people have been waiting for this visit for some time to express gratitude to his holiness for his support,” President Michel Aoun’s spokesman said.
Francis’s visit to Lebanon will be the third by an incumbent pope since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. Visiting in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for peace, months after the start of the civil war in Syria. Pope John Paul II visited in 1997, and drew one of the largest crowds Lebanon had ever seen.
One social media user drew a parallel between that visit and the forthcoming one. “Just as Pope John Paul II was a hope for Lebanon, Pope Francis too will definitely be a new hope,” he wrote.
The pope’s visit will follow Lebanese parliamentary elections on May 15, campaigning for which began in earnest on Tuesday after the publication of the final list of candidates. The Election Supervisory Authority began monitoring electoral campaigns, advertising and expenditure.
A total of 103 electoral lists, compared with only 77 at the last election in 2018, will contest the 128 parliamentary seats. There are just over 1,000 candidates, of whom 718 are on lists, and 118 are women — a notable increase on previous years.
The elections will be the first to take place since mass protests against government incompetence and corruption began in October 2019. The new parliament will also elect Aoun’s successor as president.