Aleppo’s Jesuit monastery was hit on Sunday during the battle for control of the city, although nobody was reported injured in the explosion. A vigil Mass that was due to take place there had been moved to a different church.
A church worker who was in the monastery in the west of the city when it was shelled told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the monastery was hit at 5.45pm local time.
“We thank God that the daily Mass scheduled at that time was moved to a different location… and was held at the Franciscan church,” he said.
Usually there would have been a half-hour of meditation followed by Mass at 6pm at the Jesuit monastery, but as Jesuit priest Fr Ziad Hilal was leading a mini-retreat for the Franciscan Sisters the location of Mass was moved.
Fr Hilal oversees Aid to the Church in Need emergency relief projects in Syria.
The church worker who was on site when the bombs fell told ACN: “Suddenly I heard a violent explosion, followed by a second. I threw myself on the ground and a third explosion followed. After a few minutes of silence, I left my office and I saw rubble everywhere.
“Then there was a fourth explosion and I threw myself on the ground on the debris from the broken glass.”
He added: “The damage to the building is massive – broken glass and rubble are scattered everywhere, but thanks to God almighty nobody was injured because it happened at the weekend.”
he number of shells striking the government-held part of Aleppo has fallen since the push to seize the rebel held eastern part began.
“As for the western part of the city, arbitrary hand-made missiles, gas-tank-shaped bombs, and mortar shells still target the heavily populated civilian areas although the number has dropped significantly within these two weeks since the Syrian Army offensive on the opposition territories,” the church worker said.
Rebel groups seized parts of the east of the city in 2012.
“Lots of civilian have fled the opposition-controlled areas and fled to the west side of the city due to heavy bombardment and scarcity of food and gas,” the church worker said.
According to estimates by the Aleppo branch of the Syrian Red Crescent 20-50,000 have fled in to west Aleppo over the last few weeks.
The church worker continued: “They are initially received at Al-Mahalej area for a few days, then they are relocated to Jibreen and Hanano areas. The Red Crescent and other humanitarian organisations are doing their best to ease the suffering of those mostly in need.”
Church sources state that many of those flocking in to the west require psychological help for the trauma they have experienced.
Aid to the Church in Need has provided £12.5 million in emergency aid for Syria since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011. The charity is appealing for donations to provide ongoing food, heating, clothing and shelter during the winter months. Go here to donate.