VATICAN The Pope receives Aoun: possible prelude to a trip to Lebanon

This visit sends a positive signal to the international community. And an indirect confirmation that everything is going normally for the political elections of May 15. Current issues in the land of cedars and in the region will be discussed, from the Iranian question to the war in Ukraine.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – During his official trip to Italy, scheduled for March 20-22, Head of State Michel Aoun will pay an official visit to the Vatican on March 21 and will be received by Pope Francis, reports a press release. published in the last hours. The central theme of the meeting, explains a source close to the presidency, “will be the details of the Pope’s long-awaited trip to Lebanon next September”. “President Aoun will go to the Vatican – continues the source – to invite the Pope and talk about the situation in Lebanon”, in addition to thanking him “for his prayers and all that the Holy See has done to guarantee diplomatic coverage from Lebanon”.

Aoun, the statement reports, will be received in audience by the pope on March 21. He will then hold a working meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, number two of the Vatican, and with the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

The next day, the Head of State will be received by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whom he will congratulate on his re-election on January 29. He will return to Lebanon the same afternoon.

a surprise announcement

The announcement of the Head of State’s next visit to Italy came as a surprise. The date was announced simultaneously in Beirut, at the Council of Ministers and in Rome by Farid Elias el-Khazen, Lebanese Ambassador to the Holy See. The diplomat recalled that President Aoun’s visit follows the trip that Archbishop Gallagher made to the land of cedars at the end of February. The attention of the Holy See, like that of the whole world, underlined Khazen, is currently focused on the war in Ukraine, but the concern of the Pope and the Vatican on the situation in Lebanon remains constant “at all levels”, regardless of upcoming events.

Some observers consider that the Head of State’s visit to the Vatican represents a positive signal addressed to the international community and confirms – albeit indirectly – the clear intention of the authorities to comply with the established program, with political elections scheduled for 15 May and the formation of a new government, the two fundamental conditions to guarantee the internal political stability of the country. Element that the Holy See considers essential for a possible visit of the Holy Father to Lebanon.

Distortion of the Vatican’s position

In the pre-election climate, characterized by increasing polemics and clashes between Lebanese political factions, Ambassador Khazen condemned the attempts of those who seek to manipulate the Vatican’s position in the press by accrediting imaginary predispositions in favor or against a certain political party. .

Western diplomatic sources explain that this is a reference to dispatches according to which Bishop Gallagher would have recommended, during his visit to Lebanon, the removal of Hezbollah from the list of terrorist organizations. A list drawn up by the United States and approved by its European allies.

Indeed, recalls the Lebanese ambassador contacted yesterday by L’Orient-Le Jour, Bishop Gallagher limited himself to declaring that the Holy See is “disposed to play the role of mediator in a dialogue between political parties, provided that all interested parties submit a formal request.

The future of Lebanon

On the other hand, during his visit, Bishop Gallagher did not hide his concern about the situation in the country and the region, which “cannot guarantee the future of Lebanon”. He then asked certain countries to “stop using Lebanon and the Middle East for external interests”. “Any weakening of the Christian presence – lamented the prelate – will destroy the internal balance and the identity of Lebanon”. An opinion shared by the Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Josef Spiteri, who predicts “greater collaboration between Christian candidates” in the face of this imminent threat. “With the tragedy in Ukraine, everything is more difficult,” added the nuncio. “The aid, the attention of the international community, the crisis in the Middle East, the dialogue between the United States and Iran, the fate of the displaced Syrians… President Aoun – concludes the nuncio – will address without no doubt all these questions during his meeting with the Holy Father, Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Gallagher”.

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