It is a real issue of civilization that is currently being played out in Lebanon, beyond the buffoonish side that the political crisis sometimes takes on. The story challenges us to stay true to ourselves and to the “message” that we are. Despite the cancellation of his visit, Lebanon remained surprisingly present in the mind of Pope Francis. In Bahrain last month, he had touching words for our “beloved, so weary and so tried” country, and echoed the now inescapable formula of John Paul II. Lebanon “is a pain for me,” he told reporters on the plane taking him back to Rome. “Because Lebanon is not just a country, a pope said it before me, “it’s a message”. »
If John Paul II said of Lebanon that it was a “message”, it is because he meant it sincerely. But what is this message? It is certainly not that of good manners. Living together in Lebanon is not rules of decorum, but the distinctive mark of a plural society where the religions of each other fraternize rather than compete and wage war. It is this rare balance, and for the moment singular in an Arab world which places sharia at the source of all its Constitutions, that John Paul II considered to be a “message” for the East, yes, but also for a West with Christian roots, although largely de-Christianized, confronted with Muslim immigration which charges it with a new (and potentially conflicting) spirituality at the very moment when it believed itself to be liberated from any reference to transcendence.
Living together is the first step in moving from the letter of religion to its spirit, moving towards citizenship and equality for all in rights and duties, where the religious is mastered by the civil, filtered by reason.
It is this internal balance, this model of moderation and modernity, which today seems mistreated, and which we are asked to protect, in the spirit of a national pact established once and for all in the 1940s. , far from a selfish and thoughtless political practice, far from a perverse geopolitics which transforms us into puppets, far from gregarious reflexes which push each community to want “its” share of governance and the respect of “its” rights.
Since 2019 and his visit to Abu Dhabi, where he signed with the Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad Tayyeb, the Document on Human Fraternity, a prefiguration of his encyclical Fratelli tutti (“All brothers”), Pope Francis has traveled the Arab world to promote what the theologian Hans Kung calls “the peace of religions”. A peace that would not be a leveling down, a lowest common denominator, but an effort to interiorize and spiritualize the letter of religions, an effort to discern what, in them, is contingent – that it be social, cultural or even moral – and what constitutes its essence, human fraternity and the love of God, the objective being to prevent the instrumentalization of religions for political ends, and above all for violent ends. Religiously inspired terrorism has spared no era and no country.
The stakes are high and can never be taken for granted. We must therefore do everything, really everything, so that Lebanon remains, in this respect, the spiritual gateway to the Orient, firstly because of the demographic balances which characterize it, then because it is an intrinsic part of the Holy Land trodden by Christ, and finally – last but not least – because it is the place of contact (and collision) par excellence between religions and modernity, a laboratory and an outpost of “living- together”, pluralism and freedoms.
It is a real issue of civilization that is currently being played out in Lebanon, beyond the buffoonish side that the political crisis sometimes takes on. The story challenges us to stay true to ourselves and to the “message” that we are. Despite the cancellation of his visit, Lebanon remained surprisingly present in the mind of Pope Francis. In Bahrain, the month…