WASHINGTON, D.C. — 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 Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, and committee chair Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, added their prayers to the pope’s 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 Aug. 5 urged prayers and a united effort to help Lebanon overcome “this serious crisis.”

At least 100 people were reported dead, more than 4,000 others were injured, and more than 100 people were missing. Rescue workers continued to search 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.

“Lebanon was already reeling from economic and government corruption along with the novel coronavirus pandemic,” said Gomez and Malloy. “The plight of the Lebanese people is now even more dire.”

They supported an appeal by Lebanon’s top Catholic cleric, Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, for a U.N.-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.”