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With Lebanon plea, pope resumes public audiences a month after major surgery

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, August 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Pope Francis resumes his routine of holding weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, and during the much-awaited appearance, he recalls the anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion and expressed the desire to someday visit Lebanon.

Francis walked unaided to the center of the stage of a Vatican auditorium, smiling as he gestured toward the visitors, before taking his seat in an upholstered chair and then addressing an audience of several hundred pilgrims and tourists, who wore masks as a precaution against COVID-19.

Near the end of an almost hour-long audience, Francis spoke of the Beirut explosion, recalling the “victims, their families, the injured, and all those who lost homes and work” in the blast.

In this August 5, 2020 file photo, a drone picture shows the destruction after an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP/Hussein Malla)

Lebanon’s people, he said, were still “tired and disappointed” in the aftermath, a reference to the economic and political crises convulsing the Middle Eastern nation on the Mediterranean Sea. Francis appealed to the international community to offer “concrete gestures” of help to the Lebanese people and not “just words.”

Francis, 84, was hospitalized on July 4 in Rome for an operation in which a section of his colon was removed. The Vatican said the surgery was necessitated by diverticular stenosis, or a narrowing of the bowel.

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