Pope Francis has sent a significant money gift to fund scholarships for Lebanese school students.
A press release sent Thursday explains that the donation of $200,000 is to support 400 scholarships, “in the hope of achieving a gesture of solidarity and with the desire that all involved at national and international levels will responsibly pursue the search for the common good, overcoming every division and partisan interest,” in the country.
Lebanon is in the throes of economic and political turmoil after the national currency collapsed and consumer prices spiked.
Trouble in Lebanon had been brewing for some time, with the government postponing reforms widely seen as necessary, and failing to institute fiscal responsibility. Banks began limiting withdrawals late last year, and protestors took to the streets.
Late in 2019, the World Bank warned that poverty levels could rise from 30% to 50% – meaning as many as half the Lebanese citizenry could find themselves living below the poverty line – if swift action were not taken to reform the country’s financial and economic structure.
Then, the national currency collapsed when foreign dollar-investors realised the government could not afford to continue offering high interest on investments.
The coronavirus emergency has further exacerbated an already dire situation.
The statement from the press office of the Holy See said Pope Francis has been following the situation in Lebanon closely in recent months, with “fatherly concern” for the small but diverse nation “that has always been an example of the coexistence and fraternity.”
“In this context,” the statement continued, “it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that the sons and daughters of the Lebanese people have access to education which, especially in smaller areas, has always been guaranteed by ecclesiastical institutions.”
The pope’s scholarship support follows an emergency fund initiative of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, established last month for the relief of those most in need in the Middle East as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
“May the Mother of God, who watches over Lebanon from Harissa Mountain,” concludes the press office communiqué, “protect the Lebanese people, together with the saints of the beloved Land of the Cedars.”
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