‘This Christmas Night, I Am Sad’

Aleppo Archbishop: «I am sad, without saying so to the people in my care. But I will say it to the Lord of all mercies this night at Mass, and ask him to come to our aid»

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By Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart

I feel a strong need to write, to write to you, you the dearest of my friends, these few lines to bid you to accept to share with me part of what is troubling me, part of my suffering. I am sad and I need to feel that you are very close to me to strengthen my resistance, to encourage me to pray to the Newborn to fill my somber and saddened heart with the warmth of his radiant presence, he, the source of all hope and all liberation!

I feel sad at so great a number of Christians leaving the country that has been theirs since the birth of the Church, to see them leave for abroad and in exile, far from their loved ones and from all that allowed them to live harmoniously in a warm-hearted and peaceful society that made them happy, more so than they could be anywhere else.

I am sad to witness this unjust and ferocious war continue to the seeds of terror and insecurity everywhere, even as the great nations look on indifferently, balancing all peacemaking initiatives with their dubious and incomprehensible strategic schemes.

I am sad to learn that close to 300,000 people have lost their sacred right to life. How the orphans and widows and the handicapped of this crazy war have brought about the great unhappiness of our society and how the tears have streamed from the eyes of countless women, who have lost everything in this violent and inhuman world.

I am sad to see our country being destroyed after a period of remarkable and well-earned development. Thousands of schools are closed; innumerable homes have been destroyed; so many hospitals are gravely damaged; electric power plants rendered inoperable and factories ravaged by the thousands. Then there are the archeological sites that have been annihilated, as well as Christian churches that can no longer be used, witnesses all to a long history and ancient civilization.

I am sad to see our people living in scarcity, without resources, without water or electricity, standing in line to get some very basic commodities—after having been such a hard-working people known for their great generosity toward the needy.

I am sad because I no longer know what to say by way of encouragement of my faithful who are at the end of their rope and who, day by day, are losing what hope remains, that they have managed to hang onto until today despite all that happened to them.

I am sad, without saying so to the people in my care. But I will say it to the Lord of all mercies this night at Mass, and ask him to come to our aid. I will ask Him for a Christmas present that has the power to bring back a smile on the faces of our cherished people; I will ask Him with all my heart that, with His birth, He gives birth to tenderness in hardened hearts, friendship among all and Peace in our country.

I am sad, dear friends, do not abandon me; accompany me with your prayers and your affection. May this Christmas be for me a source of comfort and for you a source of joy and happiness!

Archbishop Jeanbart is the Melkite Metropolitan of Aleppo, Syria

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