(Source: MJ/Robin Gomes, Vatican News)
The bishops of the European Union (EU) have expressed deep shock and sadness at the devastating explosions in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Tuesday.
The blasts at Beirut’s port have killed at least 135 people and injured thousands, sending shock waves deep into the city with widespread damage to property.
The explosions appeared to have been caused by a fire that touched off a massive quantity of ammonium nitrate fertiliser stored for years in the port.
“I would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to all those that have lost loved ones – friends, neighbours, colleagues,” Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE), wrote in a condolence message on Wednesday.
“We raise our prayers for the souls of the deceased and for the speedy recovery of the injured.”
Cardinal Hollerich said the EU bishops were sharing the sentiments of Pope Francis for Lebanon and were praying “so that through the dedication of all its social, political and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment.”
The COMECE president pledged the closeness of EU’s Catholic Church “with the Lebanese people, including the many refugees who escaped violence and were welcomed in fraternity by this small but generous country with a key role for peace in the entire Middle Eastern region.”
The COMECE president expressed appreciation for the “immediate assistance and humanitarian mechanisms activated by the EU in support to the Lebanese authorities,” as stated by Janez Lenarčič, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management.
The explosions come atop the country’s worst economic crisis besetting the nation of 4.5 million people, who are already burdened with an estimated 1.5 million refugees, mostly from neighbouring Syria.
Cardinal Hollerich invited the EU to work with the government and people of Lebanon, including local religious communities, “in this dramatic historical moment, also marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a heavy economic crisis and a serious regional instability.”
Following the Beirut blasts, countries and organisations around the world have rallied around Lebanon offering financial, food, medical and other assistance.