Don't leave Syria, Christian prelates implore faithful

Damascus, September 14, 2012- The prelates of four Syrian churches, have joined in an appeal for Christians not to leave Syria during the current crisis.

"With all my heart we ask the Christians of Syria not to leave our beloved country, despite the violence, the suffering, the displacement,” the prelates said.The message, released through the Fides news agency, was timed to coincide with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Lebanon. The appeal was signed by Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas;Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham; and Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius III Younan. All four prelates have their headquarters in Damascus.

"Be patient, do not run away," the patriarchs implore their people. Acknowledging the dangers that Christians are suffering in Syria today, they recognize the “temptation” to leave the country, but ask the faithful to bear the pain.

If Christians continue to leave Syria, the prelates argue, the country’s conflict could spill over into Lebanon (where most refugees have sought shelter). Meanwhile, they warn, Syria could follow the pattern of Iraq, where strong pressure from Islamic militants has greatly diminished the historic Christian presence.

Catholic World News (CWN)

"Faithful, do not leave Syria!": Patriarchs’ Message, rallied around the Roman Pope

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - "With all my heart we ask the Christians of Syria not to leave our beloved country, despite the violence, the suffering, the displacement": This is what the Patriarchs of the Christian Churches in Syria ask and since this morning are in Lebanon to "rally around Benedict XVI, a pilgrim of peace in the Middle East." In a message released by Fides Agency, Christian leaders, welcome Benedict XVI, underline the topic which is dearest to local Churches: the presence of Christian communities in the Middle East. The four leaders based in Damascus shared the message: the greek-catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham; the greek-orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim; the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius III Younan; the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas.
In particular, today in Syria there is a danger of an exodus of the faithful, many of whom are already heavily affected by poverty, were forced to leave their homes for the armed clashes, and live as internally displaced or in neighboring countries. In these tragic hours, the Patriarchs ask the faithful: "Be patient, do not run away," inviting them to "bear the pain", for Christ's sake.
Christian leaders in Syria deplore the attitude of some Western Chancellors that, explicitly or implicitly, are offering the faithful Syrians the opportunity to emigrate, noting that this "is a temptation," but is not the solution for Christians in Syria. The risk, they note, is a "Lebanonization of the Syrian conflict" (more than 50% of Christians fled Lebanon during the war) or the Iraqi scenario (in recent years the local Christian communities, under the pressure of terrorism, have considerably decreased).
The Patriarchs strongly support the Holy Father’s recent appeal to dialogue and reconciliation in Syria, defined by the Pope "priority for all parties involved" and hope that Benedict XVI’s visit may leave "a deep trace of peace."
As reported to Fides, a symbol of solidarity and love for the Pope is, in particular, the presence of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Zakka I Iwas, despite his illness and the dialysis treatment he needs, he wanted to be present next to Benedict XVI. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/09/2012)

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