In a press release sent out on Thursday March 12, Aid to the Church in Need who, since the onset of war four years ago, has given 8.675 million dollars in aid to help the population, announced its support of the call to prayer issued from Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch, the head of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, which is in communion with Rome, has called for a day of solidarity with Syria to be held today, Sunday, March 15, for on this day, four years ago, the protests began in the city of Deraa against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and eventual the war.
Excerpts from the letter of Appeal of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III For a World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria
Damascus – 24/02/2015 – As bishops, our role is to be with our people, alongside our people, before our people, behind our people and in the service of our people. We want to wash the feet of those who suffer, as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Yet we ask forgiveness from our faithful, because, despite our efforts, we are unable really to meet all their needs which are increasing on a daily basis. We are at a loss before the great pain and great suffering of our people in all its Christian and Muslim communities. This is tragedy and suffering on a global scale, which affects everyone. All have been affected by poverty, hunger, cold, lack of clothing, illness, sufferings and disability. The great majority of our faithful suffer from all that, especially in Syria. All are equal now in this kind of suffering. And as we said, this is the case also for all Arab countries, especially, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon, and also Libya, Egypt and the Yemen.
We notice with great sadness that many of our faithful are leaving or going away, in various ways, both legal and illegal. How many stories we have heard of their suffering in this flight! Some are going away and leaving the country for good reasons, others, so to speak, without pressing reasons. We urge everyone to stay, to be patient, strong, always to hope and to hang on to hope, faith and trust in God’s will. We can never oblige anyone to stay: but it is a personal decision and is up to each person’s or family’s responsibility.
Pope Francis speaks to us in our difficulties
We thank His Holiness, Pope Francis, especially for his prayers, his concern, his appeals, his speeches and also for his material assistance through the Roman dicasteries and the various organizations related to the Vatican. In particular, we should like to thank him for his special letter that he addressed to the Christians of the Middle East for the occasion of the Feast of the Nativity and the civil New Year, and we have the pleasure of mentioning here passages which are very beautiful and significant for us and for all our fellow-citizens.
“I am gratified by the good relations and cooperation which exist between the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches and those of the Orthodox Churches, and also between the faithful of the different Churches. It is the ecumenism of blood!
“Your very presence is precious for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but one with a great responsibility in the land where Christianity was born and first spread. You are like leaven in the dough.
“The greatest source of enrichment in the region is the presence of Christians themselves, your presence. Thank you for your perseverance!
“Within the region you are called to be artisans of peace, reconciliation and development, to promote dialogue, to build bridges in the spirit of the Beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5:3-12), and to proclaim the Gospel of peace, in a spirit of ready cooperation with all national and international authorities.
“The entire Church is close to you and supports you, with immense respect and affection for your communities and your mission. We will continue to assist you with our prayers and with every other means at our disposal.
“You are not alone. I do hope to have the chance to come to you in person and to visit and to comfort you.”
Suffering a school of faith
We say all this in the hope of strengthening the faith of our children. Besides, we hear the witness of many of our faithful who tell us about their faith, resistance and experience of God’s protection, and that He protects and preserves all citizens from many disasters. We as bishops, feel that we are being taught by the faith of our faithful.
We thank God for all that, just as we are also rejoicing over the return of some faithful, some citizens to their towns: so for example, at Ma’alula, at Qusayr, some districts of Homs and elsewhere. We are also happy to see and learn that there are now building yards open to begin rebuilding homes and churches at Ma’alula, Nabk, Homs and Yabrud. We are also glad about the compensation given by the State and for the aid of our faithful and we also thank all the international institutions and our friends who are helping us in this direction.
We turn to all our children and all fellow-citizens, as we did in our previous letters with the Holy Father, Pope Francis who said, “Do not let the flame of hope be extinguished in your hearts.” We launched the initiative, “The flame of hope for peace in Syria” at Christmas time. We again ask everyone to light this flame daily in their homes and hearts, in their souls and feelings. May it be a real inextinguishable light (despite the occasional lack of electricity or gas or oil!) to lighten the way for all citizens.
We believe in the power of the prayer and fasting in this Great Lent, and we call for a day of solidarity with Syria, a day of fasting and prayer for hope and peace in Syria.
+ Gregorios III Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Appeal for a World Day of Prayer for Peace in Syria 15-16 March 2015
From the very depths of our suffering and pain in Syria we cry out with our suffering people, who are walking on the bloody way of the cross, and appeal to the whole world: Enough! Enough! Enough of war on Syria!
The Way of the Cross for Syria
Beginning Saturday March 21, this day of prayer will be followed by the Way of the Cross particularly for Syria over 14 days and ending on Good Friday, April 3. You can follow its unfolding on our site every day at @www.acn-aed-ca.org
More than ever before, the Christian population of Syria needs your help.