Rome Newsroom, Oct 20, 2020 / 09:30 am (CNA).- The Basilica of St. Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes, is launching a seven-month prayer initiative for Lebanon as the country faces an unprecedented economic and political crisis.
“In prayer with St. Rita for Lebanon” will begin in the Italian town of Cascia with Mass at the tomb of St. Rita Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. local time (6 p.m. in Beirut) and will be broadcast via livestream.
“We want to bring the consolation, closeness and, above all, the hope of St. Rita into the homes of every devotee in Lebanon, reaching even those who cannot move and are experiencing difficulties,” Fr. Luciano De Michieli, rector of the Basilica of St. Rita, said as he announced the initiative.
Masses according to the liturgy of Lebanon’s Maronite Church will be offered once a month at the shrine until the feast of St. Rita on May 22, 2021. At the end of each Mass, a prayer of entrustment of Lebanon to St. Rita will be said before her tomb.
Lebanese Catholics have a great devotion to St. Rita, the 14th-century Italian stigmatist saint who embraced suffering with charity. The nuns in the Monastery of St. Rita in Cascia have offered a rosary for the Lebanese people every day for the past 20 years, according to the rector of the basilica.
Oct. 16 marked a year since mass protests began in Lebanon demanding an end to government corruption and financial mismanagement. The country’s economic collapse has only accelerated since then, with the spread of the pandemic, high unemployment, and the devastating explosion in Beirut Aug. 4 that killed more than 200 people and left thousands homeless.
Lebanon’s politicians have so far failed to form new a government while facing this emergency. Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the Maronite Patriarch, called on Lebanese leaders to stop delaying talks on forming a government in a homily on Oct. 17.
“The responsibility and accountability is collective. Who among you, officials and politicians, has the leisure of time to delay consultations to form a government?” he asked.
“Take your hands off the government and release it. You are responsible for the crime of throwing the country into a state of complete paralysis, in addition to what the coronavirus pandemic has done.”
Catholic charities in Lebanon are continuing to help rebuild Beirut and provide emergency support to homeless families. Aid to the Church in Need announced Oct. 15 that it had committed five million euros to repairing churches damaged in the explosion, including the Maronite Cathedral of St George and St. Saviour’s Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
After the explosion in August, Mother Maria Rosa Bernardinis, prioress of the Monastery of St. Rita in Cascia, said: “Cascia holds a piece of Lebanon’s heart.”
“It is therefore to St. Rita that we turn now,” she said. “St. Rita, protect Beirut and all the Lebanese people, alleviating their sufferings, giving them new strength and bringing them hope, the hope that you instill in hearts.”