Syria torn apart by ten years of conflict is now crushed in the deadly grip of the economic crisis and pandemic. In this context, Christians in Damascus rely on Divine Providence and resist the closure of their churches, indicated as a measure aimed at combating the risk of contagion from Covid 19. This is what His Exc. Mgr Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, in a message entitled “Overcoming Fear”, written in view of Christmas and sent to Agenzia Fides. The Archbishop chooses the expression “rebellion” to describe the reaction of Christians in Damascus to the idea of closing Christian places of worship and suspending the public celebration of the sacraments. Faced with the rising number of Covid-19 cases, says the Maronite Archbishop “the faithful rebelled against the closure of churches and insisted on participating in large numbers in the daily mass”. In addition – adds Archbishop Nassar – during the Eucharistic celebrations, instead of following the instructions of the bishops and receiving the Body of Christ in their hand, they continued to receive it directly on their tongue, “almost wanting to challenge the pandemic”.
Basically, the Syrian context described by the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus is that of a martyred people and a nation almost destroyed, where the decline in violence and bombing gives way to “a harsh economic war”. The global blockade that has lasted for ten years has been strengthened through the Caesar Act, a measure taken by the US to penalize the persons and States involved in economic and trading relations with the government in Damascus. The Archbishop describes the endless queues in front of bakeries and petrol stations, rampant inflation, and the economic resources of many Syrians stranded in Lebanese banks since October 2019. The Covid 19 pandemic – adds the Maronite Prelate – increases fear and loneliness of families already left without work and without resources, making its devastating effects felt especially in the medical-health sector, where there is a paralyzing shortage of drugs and health personnel, with many doctors and nurses who left the country during years of conflict.
The living condition experienced by the Syrian people must naturally be taken into account in the pastoral dynamics of the ecclesial communities. The Maronite Church of Damascus – reports Archbishop Samir Nassar – is involved in a synodal journey that began on May 31, Pentecost Sunday, aimed at taking care of the wounds of all and gathering around the Gospel the many baptized dispersed and tired of these years of suffering. “Will we succeed in carrying out this synodal project to celebrate forgiveness before the Divine Child?” asks Archbishop Nassar, without providing an answer, in the last line of his Christmas message.