With Lebanon descending deeper into its worst crisis since its civil war — one made only more severe by yesterday’s massive explosion in the port of Beirut — Catholic Near East Welfare Association has launched an emergency campaign to rally prayers and collect funds urgently needed for the country.
While the cause of the blast remains unknown, the impact has sent shockwaves through a nation still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and months of socioeconomic and political chaos. The toll grows by the hour. More than a 100 people are confirmed dead; thousands are injured; countless remain missing, presumably buried under rubble. Lebanon’s health care facilities have been overwhelmed. Three Christian hospitals close to the port, including the 600-bed St. George Hospital, have been severely damaged and evacuated. The injured are being rushed to medical centers miles from Beirut.
“Our staff, as with the entire city, is really shaken,” said Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s Beirut-based regional director, in a Zoom call this morning. “Our building was damaged, our offices are filled with shattered glass that could have been deadly had we not left for the day.
“Lebanon is on the brink of economic, political and social collapse,” he added, reporting that the government’s three-month emergency supply of grain was lost in the explosion.
“This will not stop us from doing our work. More than ever, the people of Lebanon need our help and, most especially, the help of the local and universal church.”
“With all the major issues devastating Lebanon — crises in political leadership, overwhelming debt, financial collapse, shuttered banks, unemployment, corruption and the COVID-19 pandemic — yesterday’s horrific incident only deepens what many describe as an existential catastrophe not only for Lebanon as a nation, but for the existence of a culturally and religiously diverse Middle East,” said CNEWA President Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, adding “CNEWA recalls the words of St. John Paul II, who reminded the world that Lebanon is not just a country, but a message.”
“CNEWA has been at the service of the churches and peoples of Lebanon for decades,” he said, “and we are firmly committed to assisting Lebanon’s Christian communities in gathering financial and prayerful support to provide immediate relief to all who are suffering, and those who have fallen through the cracks, especially those facing homelessness and in need of medical care and food.”
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