Pope Francis on December 2, 2018, lit a candle for peace in Syria after praying the noonday Angelus with the crowd of an estimated 20,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square. In this action, he joined in the Christmas campaign of Aid to the Church in Need, which is calling on prayers worldwide for peace in the troubled nation.
“Advent is the season of hope. In this moment I wish to make my own the hope for peace of the children of Syria, of beloved Syria, martyred by a war that has lasted now for eight years,” Pope Francis said. “Therefore, adhering to the initiative of Aid to the Church in Need, I will light a candle together with many children who will do the same, Syrian children and many faithful in the world who light their candles today. [He lights the candle]
“May this flame of hope and many little flames of hope, dispel the darkness of the war! Let us pray and help Christians to remain in Syria and in the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, of forgiveness and of reconciliation. May the flame of hope also reach all those who endure conflicts and tensions these days in other different parts of the world, close and distant. May the prayer of the Church help them to feel the closeness of the faithful God, and touch every conscience for a sincere commitment in favor of peace. And may God, our Lord, forgive those that make war, those that make arms to destroy one another and convert their heart. Let us pray for peace in beloved Syria.”
The Christian presence in Syria is in grave danger of becoming a relic of the past. Before the beginning of the war, Christians accounted for some 10 percent of the population, around 2.5 million people. As of today, it is estimated that approximately only 700,000 remain, which would amount to between 3 percent and 4 percent of the population – although it is difficult to give precise figures at this stage.