There were 25 of them, 20 children, three priests and two lay volunteers, gathered after Mass the evening of July 2, in the Al-Wouroud School, next to the parish Church of St. Dimitrios in Aleppo, when a rocket hit just a few yards from the interior of the church. People in the neighborhood were in a panic, but calmly and swiftly the children were led to the basement, just in time before a second rocket hit the school full on. Thanks to Divine Providence, none of the 25 souls gathered suffered a scratch! But, meanwhile, fire and destruction once again ravaged the poor parish which already had seen its buildings bombarded and destroyed four times since the beginning of this detestable war. What a sad ending to the week. Once more, residents of the city had to suffer greatly the terror that has not stop menacing them day and night.
The next day, when a great crowd had gathered for Sunday Mass, I was at a loss for words, but I called on the faithful to join me in a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, Who, once again, had seen fit to protect us. It was a good occasion to remind Christians that they are not alone and that our Good Shepherd is always there, very close to us, and that He never leave us orphaned or without help for even a single instant. For the faithful and myself this was a moment of awakening and awareness, occasion to take concrete stock of the care with which the Lord’s Providence protects us! In reviewing the course of events of the past five years of this pitiless war, we cannot fail to see his salutary actions among us. This terrible and infernal war, would have utterly destroyed us or driven us to despair and madness, had it not been for his tender care. Without his providential protection, the ceaseless bombardments we are suffering would have annihilated us a long time ago. In fact, during these sorrowful years of assaults, some 300 bombs have hit various churches, parishes and compounds in Aleppo.
Should we forget our Cathedral, or five churches that were put out of commission, or demolished rectories and catechetical centers, our damaged schools and institutions and the practically entirely destroyed archdiocesan center having been targeted six different times? Despite everything and thanks to God—except for our gravely wounded (yet miraculously restored to health) Father Imad—none of our many priests, deacons, lay volunteers have been killed. All of them, just like Father Imad, are continuing to give themselves generously to their pastoral and apostolic tasks. That is one more reason for us to have confidence in our beloved Jesus Christ, the All Powerful and Merciful, the Master of Heaven and Earth.
As I am writing this, deafened by the explosions of intense bombing raids, I raise my eyes on high, to ask God to shorten the duration of this long trial, which, for five years, has not stopped hurting his people. They are exasperated and don’t know where to turn anymore, where to find refuge; and, sadly, many of them are fleeing the country and there is talk that Aleppo will lose all its Christians. What unhappiness, as our 2000-year-old is confronted with such a fateful time in its history. Yet, despite everything, we will not let ourselves be defeated. May our friends who wish us well accompany us with their prayers, may they be at our sides to defend our cause, strengthen our resistance and help us stay put.
Aleppo, July 3 2016