"The Church in Aleppo is standing steadfast despite the bombs, hunger and cold of recent weeks," said Mgr Antoine Audo, Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo.
"We want to live and have faith, and show our solidarity to everyone without
distinction of religion or faction. This is our mission, our task," he added.
In talking about how people lived through Christmas under "a shower of bombs"
that killed 500 people, he also described how Christians and Muslims expressed solidarity
For the prelate, the pope's repeated appeals for peace have helped
priests, prelates and ordinary believers not to lose hope or faith in God.
"On 25 December,
at least 12 bombs fell on various neighbourhoods, many of them Christian,
killing scores of people," Mgr Audo said.
Although the situation
has improved in the past few days, the city is full of poor people, the bishop noted.
Air strikes by government
forces, shelling by the rebels, the cold weather and the skyrocketing food prices
have reduced the population to the point of starvation. Even the middle class
has fallen into poverty.
we cannot see the end of this violence," he noted. "No one knows when this war will
end. We can accept everything, except this confusion without hope for change."
Still, the situation
has not stopped Christians and the Church from helping others and praying for
peace in Syria.
explosions and the danger of death, hundreds of people attended Mass in the
Chaldean cathedral, one at 5 pm on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas morning.
At the same
time, the hatreds and divisions that are destroying Syrian society have not
stopped the flow of help to the poor and to displaced families.
months, thousands of families from Aleppo's suburbs and surrounding villages found
refuge in the city centre, particularly in Christian neighbourhoods," Mgr Audo
"The Church has
welcomed everyone, without distinction, although sometimes some Christians fail
to understand such bigheartedness that sees no differences between religions
and political factions."
In fact, every day, at the local Chaldean church,
Caritas serves lunch and hands out food to the poor and to displaced people, most
of whom are Muslims.
"A few days
ago an elderly Muslim man ran after me and loudly expressed his gratitude for
our work," the prelate said. "You see real gold when you are having hard times,"
he said. "For Muslims, Christian charity is gold."