Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic patriarch called for the resignation of the entire Lebanese government Sunday, following the devastating explosion in Beirut last week.

“The angry protest movements we witnessed yesterday confirm the impatience of the oppressed and humiliated Lebanese people and indicates the determination to change for the better,” Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai said in his homily Aug. 9.

“The resignation of a deputy from here and a minister from there is not sufficient. Rather, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the grave responsibility, the government must reach the resignation of the entire government, as it has become unable to advance the country and to hold early parliamentary elections,” the Lebanese cardinal said.

Cardinal Rai called for an international investigation into the explosion at Beirut’s port.

The patriarch said that the Lebanese people have a right to know why huge amounts of explosive materials had been kept for six years in the dangerous place in the capital. He said it is “necessary to hold everyone responsible accountable for this massacre and catastrophe.”

In the weeks before the explosion, Cardinal Rai had spoken out about Lebanon’s political and economic crisis, urging the importance of the country maintaining its neutrality in regional rivalries for a peaceful future in the Middle East. 

He underlined this again on Sunday, stating that the disaster in Beirut and the days of protests that have followed require “bold decisions in a democratic state that reconsider … the way it is governed.”

“We firmly believe that Lebanon will rise as a state to a new system, which is the ‘active neutrality regime,’” he said. “This ‘neutrality’ would achieve stability, secure the good of all Lebanese and restore the unity of the Lebanese family, with all its components and the beauty of its diversity.”

The cardinal thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for visiting Lebanon in the wake of the disaster, noting that a distinguishing feature of the Lebanese-French friendship is that “it believes in … the Christian-Muslim partnership in … a neutral, free, independent state.”

He also expressed gratitude to all the countries who rushed to give assistance after the explosion and thanked Pope Francis for his prayers and words on behalf of the Lebanese people.

Cardinal Rai said in his homily that he was offering the Divine Sacrifice of the Mass for the innocent victims and their families, the injured, the missing and all those who lost homes, businesses, schools and places of worship. 

The Associated Press reported midday on Monday that the prime minister was joining other ministers who had resigned.

 “I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon,” he said, repeating “May God protect Lebanon” three times, according to the AP.

 

Register staff added to this report.