‘The city I love is in ruins’: Bishop of Aleppo

Published: October 26, 2012The Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Aleppo, Syria, has said he is determined to stay with his suffering people even though his city is in ruins and many have already fled, reports The Catholic Herald.

Bishop Antoine Audo told MPs, charity leaders and peers in the British Houses of Parliament this month: “Aleppo, the city I love so much and where I have been bishop this past 20 years, is now devastated – much of it in ruins.”

Two brother bishops fled earlier this year but had since returned, Bishop Audo said.

He said: “Even with this violence, the bombing and snipers, we have decided to stay with our people. We don’t want to leave them alone. If I go out of the city for a time, the people will feel alone. We did not go to Lebanon to meet the Pope to tell him that we are in a dangerous situation. Instead we wrote the Pope a letter to ask for his support.”

Bishop Audo, 66, who was made Bishop of Aleppo in 1992, was speaking alongside Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, at a reception in Parliament in London.

The bishop warned the audience that Christianity in Syria could “go the way of Iraq” and be reduced to “a token few” faithful.

He said: “For the Church in every corner of the world, this would be a catastrophe because the Christians of Syria are themselves the direct successors to the Apostles Paul and Barnabas and others.”

If Christianity did decline, he said, “the impact will be felt far and wide. It will not just be a loss to the Christians, but it will be a loss to the Muslims.”

In Homs, he said, “all but a few of the faithful were forced to leave after a wave of persecution – all the churches desecrated”.

Bishop Audo painted a grim picture of life for Syrians in Aleppo. As president of Caritas Syria, he said, he co-ordinates emergency relief for tens of thousands of people.

“People, many of them Christians, have lost everything. In some areas like Midan they have fled their homes because of the threat of bombs, they have lost their livelihoods, schools, hospitals and other public services do not function. There is chaos.

“Eighty per cent of people have no job and have no option but to stay at home. Poverty is getting very serious especially with rising prices and no salaries. The face of the city has changed. There is no security, everything is dirty, there are difficulties in basic travel, no taxis, no buses.”

He said most of the wealthy people in the city had already fled. “Those who remain in Aleppo are only the poor families,” he said.

FULL STORY Bishop of Aleppo: The city I love is in ruins (Catholic Herald)