Aleppo Monastery hit – but no one dead

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By John Newton
MIRACULOUSLY no one was killed when Aleppo’s Jesuit monastery was hit during the battle for Aleppo – as the Sunday vigil Mass was moved to another 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 what had happened.
He said: “On Saturday 10th, at 5.45 pm, a missile hit the Jesuit monastery where our office is located.
“We thank God that the daily Mass scheduled at that time was moved to a different location… and was held at the Franciscan church.”
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 said: “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.”
The number of shells striking the government-held part of Aleppo has fallen since the push to seize the rebel held eastern part began.
The Church worker said: “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.”
Describing recent events during the fight for the city, he said: “During this month [December], the Syrian Army and its allies have regained control over 80 percent of Aleppo city.”
Rebel groups seized parts of the east of the city in 2012.
“The besieged opposition territory shrunk to only nine districts within the city limits.
“Lots of civilian have fled the opposition-controlled three-months-besieged areas and fled to the west side of the city due to heavy bombardment and scarcity of food and gas.”
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 said: “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 (almost €15 million EUR) 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.

Editor’s Notes

Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.

Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.

Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West.

Please always acknowledge Aid to the Church in Need as the source when using our material.

For more information, contact ACN Press Officer John Newton on 020 8661 5167.