The country’s presidency announced on Tuesday that Pope Francis will visit Lebanon in June, in a long-awaited visit that comes amid spiraling financial and political woes.
Since 2019, Lebanon, home to one of the Middle East’s major Christian communities, has been engulfed in an unparalleled economic crisis, with more than 80% of the population currently living in poverty.
The pontiff, who recently met with Lebanon’s president and prime minister in the Vatican, had pledged to visit the country and had earlier expressed worry over the country’s worsening issues.
According to a statement from the president, “Apostolic Envoy Joseph Spiteri informed President Michel Aoun that Pope Francis will visit Lebanon next June.”
“The Lebanese people have been looking forward to this visit for some time to express their gratitude to His Holiness for his assistance,” the statement stated, adding that the specific date and agenda for the visit would be determined later.
Lebanese went to social media to express their delight at the news.
One user commented, “Welcome to the Pope of Peace in the Holy Land.”
Lebanon, a six-million-strong multi-confessional country, has a Muslim majority, although Christians make up around a third of the population.
Pope Francis’ planned visit, which will take place after the country’s legislative elections on May 15, will be the third by an incumbent pope since the country’s civil war ended in 1975-1990.
Pope Benedict XVI made his most recent trip in 2012, months after the civil conflict in neighboring Syria broke out, to urge for peace.
In 1997, Pope John Paul II paid a visit to Lebanon, attracting one of the greatest audiences the country had ever seen.
He added at the time, “Lebanon is more than a country; it is a message.”
A Twitter user drew a comparison between the 1997 visit and the one coming up in two months.
“Just as Pope John Paul II was a beacon of light for Lebanon, Pope Francis will undoubtedly be a new beacon of hope,” he tweeted.
“Out with the old and in with the new during elections,” he remarked, alluding to conventional party leaders who have been in charge of Lebanese politics since the civil war ended.
Last month, Pope Francis visited with Lebanon’s president, who is a Christian, as required by the country’s constitution, which also splits government and parliament seats according to sectarian quotas.
In November, he met with Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s Muslim Prime Minister, in the Vatican.
“May God take Lebanon by the hand and say, ‘Get up!'” Francis said at the meeting, according to the Vatican.
Pope Francis met with the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church on a visit to Cyprus in December and voiced worry over the country’s difficulties.
In July, he met with the heads of Lebanon’s major churches.
One year after an explosion in Beirut port killed more than 200 people and devastated large swaths of the capital, he called on the international community to help Lebanon.
On the black market, the Lebanese currency, the pound, has lost more than 90% of its value versus the US dollar since 2019.
The Lebanese government, which is bankrupt, has struggled to pay for essential imports such as fuel, food, and medication.
With no way out of the country’s problems in sight, Lebanon’s people has fled in droves, resulting in a harmful brain drain.