BEIRUT — Pope Francis affirmed the necessity of solidarity among Lebanese officials in electing a new president for Lebanon, in a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Vatican City, Mikati’s press office said in a statement after the meeting.
Lebanon entered a dual executive vacuum for the first time in its history when President Michel Aoun's term ended on Oct 31. There is no elected candidate to succeed Aoun and the country's government has been functioning in caretaker status since it resigned following parliamentary elections in May.
Parliament has held 11 sessions dedicated to electing Aoun's successor, but all have ended in failure due to a lack of political consensus.
Contacts with the international community
“I gave the pope a letter explaining the situation in Lebanon and the potential avenues of solution in which the Vatican could contribute to ensure their success, through its contacts with the international community, notably regarding the presidential election," the statement from Mikati’s press office said.
For his part, the pope stressed "the necessity of solidarity among Lebanese officials to get out of the crises facing Lebanon and elect a new president for the country."
Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai has repeatedly said that the only solution to the presidential vacuum in Lebanon is "the holding of an international conference" devoted to the issue, under the auspices of the United Nations.
Mikati noted after the meeting that "Lebanon's message throughout its history is spreading today throughout the Arab world, and the main challenge before us is to preserve and consolidate this message and promote the values of peace and brotherhood."
"I invited Pope Francis to visit Lebanon, a visit that would be a glimmer of hope for the country's Christians and Muslims alike," the text adds.
Mikati also met with Vatican Secretary Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Vatican Minister of Foreign Affairs Cardinal Paul Gallagher, in the presence of the Lebanese Ambassador to the Vatican, Farid El-Khazen, and the diplomatic advisor to Mikati, Ambassador Boutros Assaker. At the meeting, “the Lebanese situation was presented in all its aspects," Mikati's statement added.
The prime minister also outlined the help the Vatican could bring to the table in discussions with the international community to ensure the presidential election takes place, the statement said.
Cardinal Parolin affirmed “his readiness to support Lebanon in all fields possible," the statement concluded.
The pope has a “belief in the message that Lebanon performs through cultural and religious pluralism that distinguishes it and makes it unique in the region," Mikati said.
In late February, Mikati caused controversy when he quoted a report, that was not attributed to any official source, that stated Christians now represent only 19.4 percent of Lebanon’s population.
Mikati’s remark renewed debate on the sectarian composition of Lebanon, where no official population census has been conducted since the 1930s. Accused by some of presenting this estimate for political motives, Mikati refused to reveal the identity of the report's authors or provide further details. The number of Christians in Lebanon is usually estimated at around 34 percent.
Meeting with Meloni
Najib Mikati also met with his Italian counterpart Georgia Meloni this afternoon, whom he thanked "for her support to the Lebanese Army and other sectors," which include health, according to a statement of the Grand Serail. He also "invited her to visit Lebanon to continue the discussions.”
For her part, Meloni insisted on the "need to cooperate … and put an end to illegal immigration" across the Mediterranean, as many illegal boats carrying Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians have been intercepted in recent months from Lebanon.
Meloni also welcomed the fact that Italian company Eni is part of the consortium that will start the exploration of offshore hydrocarbons in blocks 4 and 9 of the Lebanese Exclusive Economic Zone. Lebanon and Israel have signed an agreement on the delimitation of their maritime borders in October 2022.
BEIRUT — Pope Francis affirmed the necessity of solidarity among Lebanese officials in electing a new president for Lebanon, in a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Vatican City, Mikati’s press office said in a statement after the meeting.Lebanon entered a dual executive vacuum for the first time in its history when President Michel Aoun's term ended on Oct 31. There is no...