Man Training for Diaconate Killed in Syria

Archbishop Laments Decreased Church Participation Amid Danger

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The bishop of Damascus reports that the Christian sector of the city is in danger, as a man studying for the permanent diaconate was killed this week by a bomb blast.

Benjamin Camil, 35, was on his way home Tuesday morning after distributing food to destitute people when he was killed instantly by the explosive.  

In a message sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus called Camil “a martyr” and said his death showed that the area, home to many Christians, was now a target for attacks.

He said: “The tragic death of Benjamin Camil shows that nobody is safe any more, whether fighter or peaceful civilian.”

The archbishop said that until now, the faithful had still been attending religious services, adding: “But the death of Benjamin Camil puts a question mark over the ability of our faithful to move freely.”

Reporting that Church attendance during Holy Week is down, he said: “At one time our quarter was spared from the conflict. Now however an increasing number of shells are being fired.

“In view of the intensity of the fighting that is breaking out everywhere, worse is to come.”

Archbishop Nassar paid tribute to Camil, saying: “He was so close to everyone. He was always present, with an open ear, and was always ready to help and share his modest possessions with those most in need.”

Describing the Christian decline in Damascus, Archbishop Nassar said that people coming for Communion had fallen by 60% since the fighting began two years ago, and that two of the four Maronite parishes had closed.

He said one parish, which in 2002 still had 30 baptisms, only recorded three last year.

The archbishop said that meanwhile the archdiocese was struggling to cope with the influx of displaced people. «The misery is great,» he said.

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