Pope Francis has donated $170,000 to the Catholic Church in Syria for its charitable work with the poor.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, announced on Oct. 26 that each of the country’s 17 ecclesiastical circumscriptions would receive $10,000.
He was speaking to an assembly of Syrian bishops in the capital, Damascus, during an Oct. 25-Nov. 3 visit to the country where more than 350,000 people have been killed since civil war broke out in 2011.
The 77-year-old Argentine cardinal explained that his congregation was making the donation in the pope’s name to address the areas of greatest need identified by each bishop.
In his address to the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy in Syria, Sandri also announced that a conference would be held in March 2022 bringing together Catholic groups overseeing aid to the country.
He explained that the conference, ideally to be held in Damascus, would help to identify future charitable priorities.
On the same day, Sandri concelebrated a Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Youssef Absi, the leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome.
In his homily at the Melkite Cathedral in Damascus, the cardinal reflected on Pope Francis’ appeal to Catholics worldwide to take part in a two-year synodal process.
He emphasized that the invitation also extended to Syria, where many Catholics belong to Eastern Rite churches that have synodal structures.
He said: “The pope’s request for you is then particular: first of all, that the synodal form, that is the one that is normally lived between the Patriarch and his brother bishops, becomes even more a style at all levels of the life of your Church, so that all the participatory bodies are first of all constituted, and know how to function, as places where the Holy Spirit that rules and guides the Church of Christ is manifested and acts in those who compose them.”
“On the other hand, however, be vigilant so that the meetings and the suggestions that are offered to the priests, the bishops, and the Patriarch are not lived from human currents or interests, of currents and alignments also present at the different levels of the Church, but as moments in which each one has at heart the search for the face of God and his will in our time.”
Other items on Sandri’s agenda in Damascus included meetings with priests, and visits to Catholic charities, hospitals, and an orphanage.
He met on Oct. 27 with the male and female religious of Damascus and southern Syria at the Memorial of St. Paul.
The memorial is believed to mark the spot of St. Paul’s conversion, where he fell from his horse on the road to Damascus.
During his trip, postponed from April 2020, Sandri is expected to travel to Tartous, Homs, Yabroud, Maaloula, and Aleppo.
In Aleppo, he will take part in an ecumenical prayer service and an inter-religious meeting.
Aleppo was Syria’s largest city, and had the highest percentage of Christians, before the civil war, when there were an estimated 180,000 Christians. According to 2019 figures, that number fell to around 32,000.
Image caption: Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, speaks during a meeting with the general director of the Islamic Waqf (Endowment) and the director of al-Aqsa Mosque, at the mosque’s library in the religious complex in the old city of Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
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