In a context of war and violence, broken families and young people looking for a better life abroad, "the elderly who can not escape and remain tied" to memories of a lifetime” have been relegated to the margins.
This is why “our diocese wanted to take up Pope Francis’
invitation" and in this Jubilee of Mercy that draws to a close we
thought of "a memory, a monument for seniors”, says Msgr. Antoine Audo,
Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo, explaining the "living memory" that the
diocese wants to leave at the end of the Holy Year, “to put the call to
charity into practice".
"We are negotiating the purchase of an apartment - said the prelate –
on the ground floor and with access to the road, to facilitate the
elderly." A shelter "born following the call and the example of the Pope
in Rome" and that it is really "a testimony of mercy" in this land that
is both "beloved and tormented". A place he adds, where the elderly
"more or less alone and abandoned" may "take a shower, grab a coffee,
receive treatment or share their time with others”.
A gesture "that we are making on behalf of the whole diocese," said
Msgr. Audo, to revive the values of education, hospitality, the common
good, to tell these last remaining seniors that "they are not alone"
and that "there is a church that embraces them." Right now, he adds,
negotiations are "well advanced " to for the purchase of a structure
"already identified" in the city. "I have clear ideas – he continues -
and I have already provided funds for the purchase, combined with the
voluntary contribution of experts and lawyers".
The "first step" has been fulfilled, and in the near future he does
not rule out the possibility of asking for help and support from abroad,
from the faithful in the West and in the world, to provide additional
services and opportunities for the elderly. "A center that will be built
in a predominantly Christian neighborhood – Msgr. Audo continues - but
that does not exclude the possibility to accommodate Muslims, although
this must be done properly. In accordance with their needs and
In addition to the "monument to the mercy", the Syrian Church - and
that of Aleppo in particular - have promoted several initiatives in
favor of the population in the last five years of conflict. "Among the
priorities - says Msgr. Audo - is medical care for the sick, which costs
a great deal. There are many needy who come to us seeking help”.
What’s more there is the right to education for children and young
people "who must be able to go to school" despite the war.
And just in terms of education, the Chaldean Church has promoted an
initiative that involves students in 10 Catholic schools by providing
scholarships, especially to young people who come from poor families.
"This is a critical aspect - says the prelate - and is tied hand in
glove to the crisis triggered by the war. Many families once the middle
class, not rich but wealthy, are now destitute and cannot even escape
the current conditions. While not wishing to give up on the idea of
allowing their children to study they can not cope with costs and at the
same time are reluctant to accept alms out of dignity and pride. "
That is why the leaders of the diocese agreed to establish
scholarships thanks to which, Msgr. Audo says "we can provide education
to young people, without humiliating or hurting the pride of their
families”. A "constant and discreet help," he says, needs to "mitigate,
at least in part, the effects of war and general impoverishment. This
way we guarantee at least 6 thousand young men and women, boys and
girls, the right to education.
This combines ecclesiastical "and psychological assistance" programs
to alleviate "the trauma of the conflict" and "training" aimed at
"educators who have to operate with those who have been traumatized".
"These initiatives - said the prelate - involve Caritas and many
humanitarian organizations which are doing an outstanding job providing
education with food, medicines, money to pay the rent, basic
necessities". The drama of the war, he adds, "has involved the whole
city and death, destruction, suffering has touched every family.
Violence and destruction are not the prerogative of any one sector, the
east or the west, they relate to Aleppo in all its complexity. "