Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Aleppo archbishop: The Church is helping everyone "without distinction of religion or faction"

"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 and shared. 

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. 

"Unfortunately, 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. 

Despite the 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.

"In recent months, thousands of families from Aleppo's suburbs and surrounding villages found refuge in the city centre, particularly in Christian neighbourhoods," Mgr Audo said.

"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."

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