Bishop Richard F. Stika joins with all bishops of the United States in a stand of solidarity with the people of Lebanon following the devastating explosion in Beirut Aug. 4 that killed more than 150 people and injured thousands more.
The tragedy is even more personal for Bishop Stika, who possesses bi-ritual faculties of the Maronite Church, an Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, which is prominent in Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries.
“Cardinal Justin Rigali and I were in Lebanon for 10 days in 2000. It is a beautiful country that has suffered in many ways,” Bishop Stika said. “The images of the explosion and its devastation are almost hard to comprehend. I pray for the victims and for the recovery of those people who were injured and those who have lost so much. My thoughts are also with the Maronite clergy who are so vital to Catholic spiritual life and who are leading the recovery efforts in those communities.”
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of its Committee on International Justice and Peace expressed solidarity with Lebanon and joined Pope Francis in his call for prayers for the nation following the deadly Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut.
In an Aug. 6 statement, Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, and committee Chair Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Ill., added their prayers to the pope’s prayer that Lebanon may “‘overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing,’ and beseeching the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, we place our sure hope in Him who reconciles all things unto Himself.”
After a massive fire triggered the explosion that rocked Beirut’s port area, Pope Francis on Aug. 5 urged prayers and a united effort to help Lebanon overcome “this serious crisis.”Rescue workers diligently searched for survivors under the rubble. Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse that had caught fire.
Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy are supporting an appeal by Lebanon’s top Catholic cleric, Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, for a United Nations-controlled fund to be set up to manage aid for the reconstruction of Beirut and other international assistance to aid the stricken country.
The two U.S. prelates encouraged “Catholics and all people of good will to pray for the afflicted and give generously to Catholic Relief Services’ Lebanon disaster response at www.crs.org.”
They also urged the U.S. government “to accelerate any and all humanitarian assistance to Lebanon in this hour of critical need.