The Holy See announced on March 14 that a private audience between the head of the Lebanese government Mohamad Najib Mikati and Pope Francis will be held on Thursday, March 16, 2023. Pope Francis is very attentive to the situation of the country of the Cedar, which has been without a president of the Republic since the departure of Michel Aoun last fall.
This is the second time the two men will meet, the first being the audience granted to the Lebanese Prime Minister in November 2021. The meeting between the head of the Catholic Church and Mohamad Najib Mikati, a Sunni – as provided for in the Constitution – lasted about twenty minutes. The head of government offered the pontiff a brick from the Melkite Church of St. Savior of Beirut, a building severely damaged by the explosion of August 4, 2020 in the city’s port.
This new meeting takes place while Lebanon remains entangled in a serious social, economic and political crisis. Poverty is widespread and United Nations experts consider the country of the Cedar a “failed state.” Prime Minister Mohamad Najib Mikati has assumed the continuity of executive power, but his prerogatives remain limited in the absence of a President of the Republic.
Since the end of President Michel Aoun’s term of office last October, the political parties have been unable to agree on a successor, who must be Christian. Already 11 parliamentary sessions have been fruitless. Last week, Lebanese Hezbollah announced its support for the candidacy of Maronite Sleiman Frangié.
The election of a new president is one of the conditions for Pope Francis to visit Lebanon. Last April, the then-president Michel Aoun announced that the Pope would come to his country in June. The trip was postponed indefinitely.