Pope Francis urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to do everything possible to end the war in his country, to protect civilians and to ensure humanitarian agencies can deliver emergency aid to the people. The pope also asked Assad “to ensure that international humanitarian law is fully respected with regard to the protection of the civilians and access to humanitarian aid.”
Syria’s SANA news agency reported Assad met on Dec. 12 with new Cardinal Mario Zenari, the papal nuncio to Syria, and that the cardinal delivered a letter from the pope.
Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo told Catholic News Service by phone on Dec. 13 that the Syrian army had liberated most of the city from ISIS the previous day. He said the Syrian army called for the terrorists to surrender and come forward without their weapons. “Unfortunately, there was no surrendering,” Archbishop Tobji said, adding that Aleppo is still 1 percent or 2 percent under control of the Islamic State.
Yet, because the city is nearly completely under Syrian army control, “the people are celebrating,” the archbishop said. Like a parade, “there were car convoys, people marching everywhere, expressing their joy,” he said.
Archbishop Tobji noted that “there is a lot to rebuild” and it will be a “huge challenge” to put the economy on the right track “after all this destruction.”
He commended Pope Francis’ Dec. 12 letter to Assad: “It gives the people hope,” the archbishop said. “It’s always a plus for the people to hear from the church’s highest authority such words of encouragement and support.”
[National Catholic Review]