Syria: The Christian city of Ma’loula falls into jihadist hands

Source: FSSPX News

The Christian city of Ma’loula, located approximately 50 km north of Damascus, fell on September 8th into the hands of jihadists, announced the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), based in London, UK. Attacked and overcome by Islamists shouting “Allah Akbar”, the little pocket of Christianity—whose 3000 inhabitants still spoke in Aramaic, Our Lord’s language—no longer exists.

“Islamic rebels have broken into residences and have seized at least six young Greek Catholics. The bodies of butchered inhabitants have been abandoned in the streets as a warning to the residents,” Catholic press agency AsiaNews in Rome wrote on September 9th. The fighting between government militia and jihadists of the Al-Nusra Front has been going on since September 4 and has resulted in numerous casualties already. Islamists, of which some have ties to Al-Queda took control of the town on Sunday, September 8. The inhabitants fled as best they could, fearing reprisals. The Christian community of Ma’loula had been preparing to celebrate the traditional feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14; the majority of residents are Melkite Greek Catholics.

The Islamists proceeded to profane the churches of Ma’loula, destroying crosses and statues of Our Lady. The cross that crowned the cupola of the monastery of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus no longer exists; the churches of St. Leontius and Sts. Cosmas and Damian were affected. Hundreds of refugees have sought shelter in parishes of Damascus, but food supplies are running low. “These people are traumatized; entire families have had to abandon everything they had in Ma’loula, where they spent their whole lives. They need not only material goods such as food, water, and beds, but also spiritual help, particularly the elderly, the women and the children,” reported a local source quoted by AsiaNews.

Interviewed by Fides on September 6, Gregory III Laham, patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Damascus, spoke bitterly of what he called the “latest of the innumerable tragedies of this war,” and made an emotional call “to the international community, to the conscience of the entire world, that the little village of Ma’loula be saved.” It is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Damascus, and “is a very important symbol of Christianity in Syrian history,” he explained. “80% of the population has fled to Damascus in a state of terror. Tomorrow, on September 7, we will live the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria, proclaimed by the Pope, in our cathedral of the Assumption in Damascus. We thank Pope Francis for this initiative, which is pricking the world’s conscience, indifferent as it has been for far too long.”

The Melkite patriarch launched an appeal to the world leaders gathered in St. Petersburg for the G20: “We are crying out to the conscience of the leaders of the G20, gathered now in Russia, who are sinking in contradictions, quarrels and self-interested conflicts. (…) Village by village, Syria is going up in flames, destroyed by armed militants without faces or identities, but capable of terrorism, homicide and crimes. Now it is Ma’loula’s turn, an oasis of peace where Christians and Muslims lived in safety. Ma’loula is subject to looting, murders, massacres, Ma’loula, historic Syrian town, land where they speak in the tongue of Christ, town of churches, monasteries and shrines: why has it been under siege for months? What has been Ma’loula’s crime?”

On Saturday, September 7, appointed a day of fast and prayer for peace in Syria, in the Middle East and the Far East as well as throughout the world, over 7,000 people assembled on St. Peter’s Square in Rome for the prayer vigil presided over by the Pope. Confessions began under the colonnades at 5:45 p.m. with about fifty priests. The Pope recommended that the day begin with confession, for true peace comes from hearts reconciled to God and their neighbours. The vigil began at 7 p.m. with the Veni Creator and the carrying of the icon of the Salus Populi  Romani to the square by the Swiss Guard. The Holy Father led the Rosary, and the mysteries were accompanied by a reading of a poem by St. Therese of the Child Jesus to Mary, Queen of peace. A pontifical address followed and then adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, during which the 20th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John was read. The vigil concluded with Benediction and half an hour of silent meditation.

(Sources: kipa-apic.ch—Fides—AsiaNews—VIS—DICI no. 281, 13/09/13)

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