Cardinal Bagnasco in Aleppo with us: “You are a sign of hope for all”

Aleppo. The rubble is easily trampled on in Wartan, a border area that has been the scene of violent clashes. The lights of a warm sunset accompany a small procession that winds through the streets of the city. The frame is sad: houses and buildings destroyed by war, while the sound of drums fills those rooms left empty for years. Walking among the debris, escorted by scouts from the Latin parish, a group of local politicians, who almost hold bishops and cardinals. They do not speak, they observe with lucid eyes what remains of an enormous Jesuit complex raided by the militias of Jabhat al Nusra. In the chapel, a crucifix with broken arms had become over the years the symbol of the suffering Christian community of Aleppo. Today the chapel collapsed, along with half of the building. In the courtyard comes, with the prayers that everyone knows, this unusual procession. The applause of more than 2000 people welcomes him. They are the remaining Christians.

They want to celebrate, celebrate the rebirth of the city. Among them, as a friend, also Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, visiting the martyr city. “I discovered a suffering city, but with great vitality”. The president of the European bishops welcomed the invitation of the Christian community and spent a few days among them, without sparing himself, and where he could see “the heavy weight of international sanctions that make people’s lives impossible”.

“The communities have greatly diminished – he continues – but they are also more cohesive, both within individual rites and at a general level, a sign of a presence that is a leaven for the whole country”. The archbishop of Genoa arrived in Syria to visit the projects of the Custody of the Holy Land financed through the Association pro Terra Sancta, which over the years has implemented and reported them. Humanitarian initiatives that he himself, when he was president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, helped to finance. “The Italian bishops have helped the Aleppo community a lot in these years, continues the Ligurian cardinal, and these days I have seen the achievements in place, which are very punctual and necessary to give relief to the population. Starting from the reconstructed houses, but also the small projects that gave a job to the many who had been left without them ”. A small drop to fill the thirst for life of the population, especially the Christian, on which the archbishop speaks again: “The Christian presence in Syria and the East is a value to which the Church cannot and must not renounce. It is a place where we are continually regenerated, as the Holy Father often says, speaking of this lung of the East “.

Something that even the Genoese cardinal experienced in these days in Aleppo: “I met some families whose house has been rebuilt. I saw a great joy in their eyes. In the labors I saw great dignity and great trust. I return home after seeing that it is possible to rebuild. For this reason, Christians must not give up or think that Syria has no future. Not at all. “