Pope Francis calls for solidarity with Lebanon

Pope Francis appealed for solidarity and compassion with the people of Lebanon as victims of last week’s explosion continue to rise.

In his address after the Angelus on Aug. 9, the pontiff said the “catastrophe” calls everyone “to work together for the common good of this beloved country.”

On Aug. 4, some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a Beirut Port shelter had blown up, killing more than 150 people and injuring about 6,000.

Pope Francis renewed his appeal to the international community for “generous aid” and urged the Church in Lebanon “to be close to the people on their calvary… with solidarity and compassion, with heart and hands open to sharing.”

“I ask the bishops, priests, and religious of Lebanon to be close to the people and to live a style of life marked by evangelical poverty, without luxury, because your people are suffering, suffering a lot,” said the pontiff.

He warned that “coexistence (of various faiths and cultures in Lebanon) is now very fragile,” but “with God’s help and everyone’s genuine participation, it may be reborn free and strong.”

Before the Angelus, Pope Francis urged the human family “to abandon ourselves trustingly to God in every moment of our life, especially in moments of trial and turmoil.”

“When we have strong feelings of doubt and fear and we seem to be sinking, we must not be ashamed to cry out, like Peter: ‘Lord, save me’,” said the pontiff.

Pope Francis reflected on a Gospel passage that tells of Jesus walking on the water towards his disciples on a boat in a stormy lake.

Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat and take a few steps. When Peter was about to sink, he cried, “Lord, save me” and Jesus grasps him by the hand and says to him: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Pope Francis said Jesus’ gesture, who immediately reaches out his hand and grabbed Peter out of danger “should be contemplated at length.” 

“This is Jesus. He is the hand of the Father who never abandons us. The strong and faithful hand of the Father, who always and only wants what is good for us,” said the pope.

The pontiff stressed that “having faith means, amid the storm, keeping your heart turned to God, to his love, to his Fatherly tenderness.” 

Pope Francis salutes from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter’s square during his Sunday Angelus prayer on Aug. 9, .at the Vatican. (Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

The pope said that God recognizes that “our faith is lacking and that our journey can be troubled, hindered by adverse forces.”

He, however, said that “even before we begin to seek him,” the Risen Lord is always “present beside us… lifting us back up after our falls, he helps us grow in faith.”

“The boat at the mercy of the storm is the image of the Church, which in every age encounters contrary winds, at times very harsh trials: let us think of certain long and persistent persecutions of the last century,” said Pope Francis.

The pontiff implored the intercession of the Virgin Mary to “help us to persevere in faith and fraternal love when the darkness and storms of life set our trust in God into crisis.”

In his address, the pope also noted that Aug. 6 and 9 marked the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

“While I recall the visit, I made to those places last year with deep emotion and gratitude, I renew the invitation to pray and the commitment to a world completely free of nuclear weapons,” he said.

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