On Friday 22 January, in the heart of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Armenian Archbishop of Aleppo, Shahan Sarkissian, attended the evening prayer of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Santa Maria in Trastevere. At the end of the prayer, the Bishop addressed these words to the Community gathered for prayer:
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Let us give thanks to the Almighty that created us. Having lived with you this moment of prayer, being here with you encourages me as the representative of the Syrian people.
I have known the Community of Sant'Egidio for a long time. As my brother said during his homily, when he spoke of our fraternal relationship for the good, I believe that Christianity and the Christian faith are something that goes to the heart of each. And when the war started in Syria one day I met my people, my Christian community and after the celebration of the Eucharist I said to them: Today we begin to really pray. I had lived this experience with the Community of Sant'Egidio when I came here with the previous Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians. I come from a country where the war continues and sometimes people think that this war will continue forever and that there is no solution.
The Community of Sant'Egidio has invited me to come here to visit this country and talk about our situation. I know there are many people that know, better than I do, the situation in the Middle East but I have seen, first in Naples and then this evening here with you, that you are with us and we are not alone. We are not abandoned.
We always pray for peace all over the world but particularly for Syria and Aleppo.
This morning I started my meetings with Catholic Missionary Fathers. I will not tell you about the whole day but two things are essential to me, and I want to testify. One of the brothers of the Community of Sant'Egidio took me to the catacombs and I was very impressed by the presence of the martyrs in the catacombs. Martyrdom is not something that has to do with death, but with life. The martyrs speak to us today. The second opportunity was to be able to visit people in need, in one of the houses of the Community of Sant'Egidio at the service to the needy.
In both cases I felt that we are not abandoned in despair and do not lose our hope. And if I am with you tonight, it is because you teach me how to pray and I will testify to you before the Lord and before my people in Syria.
In thinking about what to tell you I thought I would ask you to pray and I only say: keep on praying for us.
I express my thanks to the Community of Sant'Egidio, to all its members and bring you the greetings and blessings of His Beatitude Aram I, the Catholicos of the Armenians of Cilicia in Lebanon, one of the friends of the Community of Sant'Egidio. Thank you for listening, thank you for this opportunity.