Pope blesses icon for the people of Syria

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Our Lady of Sorrows Consoler of Syrians

• Thousands of rosaries blessed by Pope distributed to families By Fionn Shiner and Marta Petrosillo POPE Francis yesterday (Sunday, 15th September) blessed an icon bound for the people of Syria as part of an initiative by a leading Catholic charity to enkindle faith and hope in a country shattered by suffering.

The icon of the Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of the Syrian People, was blessed by the pontiff at a private ceremony in the Vatican attended by a delegation from project initiators Aid to the Church in Need. The blessing ceremony took place the same weekend as Christians in towns and cities across Syria received 6,000 rosaries blessed by the Pope a month ago – 15th August, Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. ACN, which is behind the rosary initiative, has prioritised emergency and pastoral support for Syria, completing more than 850 projects since the war began in 2011. The charity teamed up with Greek Orthodox priest Father Spiradon Kabbash, who created the icon, which will be sent to each of Syria’s dioceses, 34 in total, beginning with Damascus, the capital where it will be presented by the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari. Father Kabbash said he had designed the icon as a message of hope. He said: “We will send to many places in the world because they need consolation from God. The war is too heavy for the people.” Speaking after yesterday’s papal blessing ceremony, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, President of Aid to the Church in Need (International), said that the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows gives us a lesson in true maternal compassion. The rosary and icon initiatives came in response to reports that 2,000 Christian families have lost at least one member during the war. About 800 families have had at least one member abducted during the crisis. Editor’s Notes www.acnuk.org 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 Senior Press Officer Dr John Newton on 020 8661 5167 Aid to the Church in Need sends out its press releases to members of media organisations, and individuals who have specifically requested to be on our list. If you no longer wish to receive our press releases please email john.newton@acnuk.org with the word “Remove” in the subject box. ACN’s Privacy Policy can be found at www.acnuk.org/privacy