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POPE VISIT

Pope Francis at the heart of a Lebanese blunder

Pope Francis at the heart of a Lebanese blunder

President Michel Aoun receiving on Tuesday the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Joseph Spiteri at the Baabda Palace. (Credit: Dalati and Nohra)

While Baabda announced that Pope Francis would visit Lebanon, the Vatican later said the visit “was being studied,” raising questions whether or not it will take place in June.

On Tuesday, President Michel Aoun announced in a tweet that Pope Francis would visit Lebanon — a hasty announcement as a result of a Lebanese-style blunder that was clarified by the Vatican’s press office director Matteo Bruni, quoted by Vatican News as saying that the much-anticipated visit was still “a possibility that is being studied.”

The presidency came under heavy criticism for having departed from protocol and leaked information that should have remained confidential, pending an official announcement by the Holy See.

Aoun and his camp were accused of using the papal visit for electoral purposes, in a bid to take credit for having the pontiff visit the country.

But things are a bit different, according to an European diplomatic source, who said that the leaked information is due to an indiscretion as a result of undisclosed circumstances that had nothing to do with the Lebanese presidency.

In a diplomatic yet somehow ambiguous step, the Vatican was able to rectify the blunder and take back the initiative, announcing that the visit was still “being studied,” since no specific date or program has been set yet.

The visit is not compromised

The term “being studied” does not at all mean that the visit is compromised. In fact, during their monthly assembly, the Maronite bishops who met in Bkirki yesterday welcomed the news of the papal visit.

In the statement issued after the meeting, the bishops “rejoiced at the announcement of apostolic visit of His Holiness Pope France to Lebanon next June.”

“While waiting for the details of the official visit and program to be announced, we ask God to bless the papal visit, and to answer the prayers of His Holiness the Pope, and his wishes for the well-being of Lebanon and the Lebanese,” the statement added.

“We have full confidence that the Pope will be able to surprise everyone,” Maronite Bishop of Batroun Mounir Khairallah told L'Orient-Le Jour yesterday, saying he was confident that “no one knows better than the Vatican Lebanon’s identity and historical vocation in its Arab environment.”

“The visit will certainly take place,” Khairallah said confidently, after a meeting regarding the trip’s program, held at apostolic nunciature today.

According to the aforementioned diplomatic source, the official dates of the visit will be announced in the coming days.

Promises

On Tuesday, Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, informed the Maronite Patriarch and the president that Pope Francis would visit Lebanon in June — a piece of information that should have remained confidential until the visit was officially announced.

However, the news was inadvertently leaked to the press, which forced the President to announce it officially based on the Pope’s promises to Aoun during the latter’s visit to the Vatican on March 21, but without specifying a date.

During the meeting, Aoun discussed “the serious socio-economic problems of the country, as well as the situation of refugees.”

“Help from the international community, the upcoming parliamentary elections and the necessary reforms that must contribute to strengthening the peaceful coexistence between the different religious confessions living in Lebanon,” were also on the menu of the talks, according to an official statement issued at the time.

Anticipating the Pope's upcoming visit to Lebanon, a church source who closely followed the pontiff’s recent visit to Malta said that the pope did not forget to make a reference to the Middle East, stating that the very existence of the island, “in the heart of the Mediterranean,” is proof that it is possible to coexist in “a sort of conviviality of differences,” a question that the Lebanese closely identify with.


While Baabda announced that Pope Francis would visit Lebanon, the Vatican later said the visit “was being studied,” raising questions whether or not it will take place in June.On Tuesday, President Michel Aoun announced in a tweet that Pope Francis would visit Lebanon — a hasty announcement as a result of a Lebanese-style blunder that was clarified by the Vatican’s press office director...