Pope Francis’ representative in Syria has said people are losing hope as the Syrian civil war continues and widespread poverty explodes.
“I’ve seen so many people die, I’ve seen young people die too, now I see hope dying,” Cardinal Mario Zenari told CNA Sept. 2.
“It is clear that hope is there, but it is far away. Sooner or later there will also come a future for Syria but currently it is so complicated, isn’t it?” he said. “And hope is lacking, hope is dying.”
Zenari, apostolic nuncio in Syria since 2008, met Pope Francis Sept. 3 with members of AVSI, a nonprofit supporting Project Open Hospitals in Syria.
Pope Francis praised the initiative, which supports free services through three Syrian hospitals and four walk-in clinics, calling it “the ‘creativity of charity,’” a phrase of Saint John Paul II.
“International observers tell us that the crisis in Syria continues to be one of the most serious worldwide, in terms of destruction, growing humanitarian needs, social and economic collapse, and poverty and famine at dire levels,” the pope said Sept. 3.
“In the face of such immense suffering,” he said, “the Church is called to be a ‘field hospital’ and to heal wounds both physical and spiritual.”
Speaking to CNA a day ahead of the papal meeting, Zenari explained that while “fewer bombs are falling,” especially in the north of Syria, another, noiseless, bomb has detonated, that of a poverty crisis.
The nuncio said more than 90% of the population is living under the poverty threshold and statistics show that many children are going hungry or are malnourished.
In his speech Saturday, Pope Francis thanked the group for the gift of an icon of Jesus the Good Samaritan.