By Staff Reporter

This morning, in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, His Eminence Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, met with the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. Also present was His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. The appointment was an opportunity to rekindle attention towards the situation in Syria, which has been prostrated by almost ten years of violence.

His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin introduced Cardinal Mario Zenari, expressing his hope that the world will not grow accustomed to the “litany of horrors that every day comes to us from that tormented nation”. Syria, said the apostolic nuncio in his address on the theme “Let us not let hope die!”, seems to have disappeared from the “media radar”. But the humanitarian catastrophe persists, and following the rockets, now the “bomb of poverty”, which has hit 80% of the population, is the greatest cause for concern. At the moment it is estimated that 11 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Cardinal Zenari expressed his gratitude for the generosity of so many States and Institutions, especially the United Nations Agencies, which have set up a series of humanitarian projects, and spoke of the many urgencies affecting the country, first and foremost health care, also in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But “time is running out” warned His Eminence: Syria is an “expanse of ghost villages”, strewn with rubble, and “many Syrians have lost hope”.

The apostolic nuncio then spoke of the delicate question of the sanctions imposed on Syria, and how these inexorably affect the population. Among the country’s many open wounds, His Eminence spoke of the children and the elderly who have died in the cold winter; the departure of qualified young people, as well as those lost to the war; the repatriation of refugees; and the problem of the many missing and detained persons.

Finally, the Cardinal called for an international response and radical long-term solutions, also in the light of Pope Francis’ many speeches on Syria and the recent Encyclical “Fratelli tutti”: “We need to develop the awareness that today we are either all saved together or no one is saved” (no. 137).

At the end of his address, His Eminence Cardinal Mario Zenari answered several questions from those present. The topics dealt with included relations between religious communities in Syria; the need for economic recovery at various levels for the reconstruction of the country; the consequences of the conflict on the presence of Christians in the region; the educational emergency; the situation of women; and the need for additional financial resources for the “Open Hospitals” project, three Catholic hospitals in Damascus and Aleppo to which free access is granted to the sick regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief.

The meeting ended with words of thanks from the Cardinal Secretary of State, who reiterated the importance of seeking new solutions and of not abandoning Syria under a blanket of silence and indifference.

[Vatican-provided text]

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