A conference on the themes of the Synod desired by the Pope is scheduled for March 15-17. Representatives from the dioceses, the Roman Curia, local and international charitable organisations will be present. Maronite Archbishop of Damascus: an opportunity “to rediscover our mission”. The exodus of young people abroad shrinking an already tiny Christian minority.
Damascus (AsiaNews) – The apostolic nuncio to Damascus, Cardinal Mario Zenari describes an upcoming three day seminar dedicated to the Synodal Path invoked by Pope Francis as one of the “most significant” events in terms of “synodality of the Church in Syria”.
The long-time Vatican diplomat who has never abandoned the country even in the harshest and darkest moments of the conflict, spoke to AsiaNews about the March 15-17 meeting titled “Church, House of Charity – Synodality and Coordination”, pointing to the participation of “all the dioceses in Syria, as well as representatives of the Roman Curia, Syrian and international charitable organisations”.
The Cardinal confirmed the importance of the appointment for the local Church as a response to the directives outlined by Pope Francis, who invited the entire ecclesial reality to walk together. “Synodality and the exercise of charity”, added Card. Zenari, represent a medicine with which to heal the wounds inflicted by “these years of bloody conflict” and by the economic sanctions that end up affecting the civilian population, starting with the poverty bomb.
The Church in Syria has managed to survive despite the difficulties of recent years, not least migration – like other nations in the region, see Iraq – which has decimated the community. In a message to the faithful in 2017, the Maronite archbishop of Damascus, Msgr Samir Nassar, wrote that “not a single baptism or wedding has been celebrated in the last eight months”. A collapse in the sacraments over the previous five years and “the absence of young people” has led to inevitable repercussions “in parish life”.
The “heroic” Christian families, as the archbishop himself called them in his Christmas message of 2021, have however been able to fight, resist and today look to the future with renewed hope. For the general synod, explains Msgr Nassar to AsiaNews, groups have been set up to deepen their knowledge, prayer meetings have been promoted and conferences have been organised to study in depth the themes proposed by the pontiff and the local Church. Yesterday saw the conclusion of three days (17-19) dedicated to consecrated life in which “hundreds of nuns and religious participated” with a great spirit of participation and being able to count “on the apostolic nuncio Card. Zenari and Card. Leonardo Sandri who helped us to prepare these special events”.
The general synod”, observes Msgr Nassar, “will help us to rediscover our mission”. Being small groups, each will be able to express their own “interesting evaluations and give answers” to the most topical issues. In particular, on how to be a synodal Church “walking together as Christians and as citizens” in Syria. For the prelate, the synod is “an opportunity to discuss many areas”, from schools to churches, the activities of hospitals so important in the war before and today with the Covid-19 pandemic, the prison population, the life of families.
A number of Muslims will also take part in the Syrian Church’s synodal work. They will receive the daily bulletin and “answer questions” that arise during the working sessions. There is one last point to which Mgr Nassar looks with attention, mixed with concern: “Of the 19 couples whose marriages I celebrated in 2021, 13 have already left Syria, the others are trying in every way to follow them. From a minority, we are becoming a minority within a minority. So it is hard to go on… but the hope is that the Synod will give us strength and morale to understand how to live as a small community” that despite the difficulties is able to bear fruit.