Patriarch Gregory III Laham says the “greatest pastoral care and responsibility” lies in “conserving and maintaining” a presence in Syria, “despite crises, wars, the rise of fundamentalism and rejection by others.”
The leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church said this while he was addressing the annual meeting of the Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
The patriarch said that 91 churches have been either damaged or destroyed, 37 of which are Melkite Catholic Churches.
From 2011 to last year, the Syrian civil war, which has pitted the government military against rebel forces, has resulted in the deaths of more than 120,000 people, according to a September 2013 report by the UN. The conflict has resulted in a mass exodus of Syrians who now reside in refugee camps.
Meanwhile, neighboring countries are also in the midst of various conflicts.
“Lebanon is in crisis, the presidency of the republic is vacant, beloved Iraq is back again to fire and blood. We hope that Egypt quickly regains its stability and security with its new president, to whom we express all our good wishes for him to lead his country to that stability and security to which it aspires.”
“What can be said about Syria, which is in its fourth year of bloody crisis, a real way of the cross for an entire nation, a country where people and buildings are devastated?” he said.
“Let us never forget the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that engenders the whole region’s crises. We thank our Pope Francis for his concern, his appeals and all his initiatives for peace in our region and in every one of our countries.”
“Today our greatest pastoral care and responsibility lies in conserving and maintaining our presence and role to enable us to be salt and leaven forever in this land of ours, to dwell in this land where God has placed us, despite crises, wars, the rise of fundamentalism and rejection by others. And to each of our children we say, ‘Don’t go away! Wait! Resist! You are the little flock, the little flock with a big role.’”