ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis appealed Sunday for Lebanon’s politicians to put their personal interests aside and agree on a path to help the country emerge from years of economic meltdown and a new political vacuum.

“Lebanon now is suffering,” Francis said when asked en route home from Bahrain if he might visit the country, which he had been considering earlier this year but had to postpone.

Francis didn’t respond directly but said he was greatly “pained” by the country’s descent into chaos and begged for prayers and for the international community to help Lebanon.

“I take this opportunity to appeal to Lebanese politicians to put your personal interests aside and speak about the country and come to an agreement,” he said. “First God, then country, then personal interests.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s term ended at the end of October without a replacement, leaving Lebanon in a political vacuum that is likely to worsen its historic economic crisis.

Many fear that an extended delay in choosing a successor could further delay attempts to finalize a deal with the International Monetary Fund that would provide Lebanon with $3 billion in assistance, widely seen as a key step to help the country climb out of a three-year financial crisis that has left three quarters of the population in poverty.