Visiting Church officials to Syria see ‘unspeakable suffering’

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Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, expresses deep grief in front of so much suffering
La Croix International staff (with Catholic News Service)
A displaced Syrian girl stands among the rubbles next to her shelter in al-Asha’ari, eastern Ghouta, Syria, Jan. 18, 2018. (Photo by EPA/Mohammed Badra/MaxPPP)

Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, accompanied by prelates in Syria, visited the eastern Ghouta region outside of Damascus and saw “unspeakable suffering.”

The March 6 visit was part of the annual session of the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Syria.

“In every face, mostly the children,” was a “very confused” expression, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told Catholic News Service.

Patriarch Younan said they felt “deep sadness and repulsion” in seeing “the horrible destruction of that region, held hostage for such a long time by radical Muslims.”

This visit evidently an impact on Cardinal Tagle, “who expressed his deep grief in front of so much suffering.”

“Besides the humanitarian assistance so much needed and the urgent help to rebuild their city, it is mostly and, first of all, hope and dignity that this courageous community was looking for,” the patriarch said.

The visitors included Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi, who hosted the March 4-6 council session at the patriarchate in Damascus; and Catholic bishops of Syria.

Ghouta, was the last rebel bastion east of the capital city of Damascus, secured by the Syrian government in April 2018.

During the conflict at least 400,000 people were under siege in Ghouta that also witnessed alleged chemical attacks.

Patriarch Younan described the suffering in the city as “unspeakable.”

“It is shameful that the so-called free world was accomplice to that disaster for no reason than satisfying the greed and opportunism of its politicians. All fake news of the agglomerate media, like the show play of chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian soldiers, were based on lies, in order to keep the fighting going on,” Patriarch Younan said.

“Less than a quarter of the population could return without any harassment and managed to find lodging, despite the destruction and the harsh winter,” he said.

“The youth we encountered, though hesitant and confused, were looking to start their life again,” Patriarch Younan said.

Patriarch Younan said he, Cardinal Tagle and Patriarch Absi “assured the people of our prayer and solidarity” and planted three olive trees “as a symbol of revitalized life.”