BEIRUT — In war-torn Aleppo, Syria, the Syriac Catholic
patriarch proclaimed that “the will of life has overcome death; hope and
security have overcome despair and chaos. Our people have overcome.”
Mass Sept. 9 at the inauguration and rededication of the restored Our
Lady of the Assumption Syriac Catholic Cathedral, Patriarch Ignace
Joseph III Younan said, “We will always be people of hope and life.”
cathedral’s inaugural Mass, filled with worshippers, was attended by
Cardinal Mario Zenari, the Vatican nuncio to Syria; bishops of other
Christian Churches; and representatives of Aleppo civil authorities.
patriarch led a procession through the nearby streets to the restored
cathedral, then cut a white ribbon fastened to the main door and
In the homily, Patriarch Younan recalled his visit to
Aleppo in 2017, when he celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in the damaged
cathedral with the faithful assembled under umbrellas “because the rain
was falling on us from all sides of this cathedral.”
gathered today to sing thanks and praise to the Lord who gave us this
wonderful gift to be able to repair this cathedral in order to
recuperate its beauty of the past. We are so delighted to come once
again and pray with you, in this cathedral so dear to you,” the
“For many years, this house of God suffered a lot
of devastation, being at the demarcation line with terrorists. It is now
restored for worship, a sign of hope and victory of the good over the
evil that destroyed so many churches and mosques in this beloved city,
Aleppo,” Patriarch Younan said. He noted that Aleppo was recognized for
centuries as the most important center for many Christian communities.
the horrendous siege at the hands of criminals that lasted four years,
this second-largest and prosperous city of Syria was deprived of basic
necessities,” the patriarch said. “You lacked water, food, fuel and
electricity. All this happened under the eyes of the ‘civilized’ world.”
December 2016, the Syrian army retook control of almost the entire city
of Aleppo. The city had been split between government and rebel control
“Aleppo has returned, and Syria will return to its
previous glory, and even more beautiful, because there are many civil
and spiritual officials who felt the duty of their responsibilities to
serve … with integrity and honesty,” Patriarch Younan said.
should first thank God almighty that helped you, beloved brothers and
sisters, under the leadership of our brother-Archbishop Antoine Chahda
(of Aleppo), to undertake the hard and costly works of repairing this
wonderful cathedral built in the 1970s,” the patriarch said.
He thanked the “generous benefactors” from the archdiocese, Catholic organizations and the government of Hungary.
owe to our Catholic brothers and sisters from around the world a lot of
appreciation and gratitude for the charitable and unconditional
solidarity toward us and all Christians of the Middle East, most
particularly the two beleaguered countries of Syria and Iraq,” Patriarch
The Mass commemorated the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
thanks go to our heavenly Virgin Mary, who protected the faithful of
this cathedral, and protected the people of Aleppo,” the patriarch said.
He stressed that Aleppo still needs her intercession after so much
suffering and prayed that she would grant the Middle East “a true peace
and unshakable security based on justice for all.”
He also prayed that she would hasten the return of Syrians who migrated to other countries.
patriarch’s four-day visit to Syria from the patriarchate in Beirut
included meetings with government officials and Muslim clerics. During
the Mass at the restored cathedral, the patriarch ordained six new
Lebanon’s religious leaders call for ‘dignified’ return of refugees
— Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim religious leaders, meeting with the
president of Switzerland, appealed to the international community to
work toward peace in the region and to ensure the “dignified” return of
refugees to their homelands.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of
Maronite Catholics, hosted Swiss President Alain Berset at Diman, the
patriarchal summer residence in northern Lebanon Aug. 28.
attending included Melkite Patriarch Joseph Absi; Syriac Catholic
Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius
Aphrem II; Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X — all of whom were born in
Syria — Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia for the Armenian
Orthodox Church; Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, papal nuncio to Lebanon;
Mohammad Sammak, secretary general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim
Committee for Dialogue; Muslim and Druze representatives.
appeal to the international community to shoulder its responsibility and
strive to put an end to the ongoing conflicts and wars and to ensure
the dignified return of the Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians,
Iraqis and others to their country,” Cardinal Rai told the Swiss
Lebanon, a country of about 4 million, is host to more
than 1 million refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria. In addition,
the country continues to host thousands of Iraqi Christians who were
uprooted from their homes in Iraq’s Ninevah Plain by the Islamic State
organization, and about 500,000 Palestinian refugees, stemming from the
Palestinian exodus during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
“This right of return must be a priority,” Cardinal Rai continued, regarding the refugee presence in Lebanon.
“It is their right as citizens to preserve their culture and
civilization and to continue to write their history. Therefore, the
question of their return should not be linked to political solutions
that may take years and years.”
“This visit also aims to remind
Lebanon that it is not alone concerned with the refugees and the
displaced,” Berset told the gathering. He noted that the previous day he
had met with Lebanon’s president, the house speaker and other officials
“only to confirm our concern about helping Lebanon.”
— Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service