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Aleppo dies, but we find solidarity in war. The homily by Armenian Archbishop Boutros Marayati

February 23 2016

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An appeal not to forget Aleppo and the Christians in Syria, in the homily by the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Boutros Marayati, who participated in the  liturgy in the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere on Saturday night

Very dear brothers and sisters, good evening!

The Armenian Church has proclaimed this year, 2016, the year of service. Serving, as Christ said: I did not come to be served but to serve. He also said: whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant. This theme chosen by the Armenian church is in tune with the theme chosen by Pope Francis: "The Jubilee of Mercy". Service and mercy go together. There is no true Christian service without the spirit of mercy and there is not abstract mercy without a concrete service.

The Community of Sant'Egidio is very familiar with these two realities: service and mercy. From this the Community was born and it continues, especially for the good of the poor. I would like to thank you and the whole Community for your support to our martyred city of Aleppo. And I thank especially Andrea Riccardi for his last appeal, I would say the cry: "Aleppo is dying, let us save Aleppo." Truly we are dying. Our people live now like a little rest and many are fleeing, going out and children are the first victims. All we have become refugees in our houses, without water, without light, without medicine, without anything. It is not to live but to survive.

Yet with this civil war - I would say dirty because there are so many international interests - with this death, this blood, however there is also something good that we are living. Three things have affected us and help us to move forward and to stay among our people.

The first is that we are living a time that is strong in faith, in hope and in patience. Our people pray, pray. Churches are full. And Christ said, But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting. So these are very positive things and we pray as we pray today with the Psalm: The Lord, he is our light, he is our salvation.  We no longer have much confidence but at least we have confidence in God who will come to our aid.

The second positive thing that has emerged with this civil war is the ecumenical spirit. The collaboration between us Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. Aleppo has always been an ecumenical city but during this war we felt the need to be together, to work together. The Holy Father speaks of blood ecumenism, that is to say, the martyrs are for all Christians, and there is no difference between Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, but also in reality there is the ecumenism of the service, the diakonia. And we in Aleppo, especially now, do the service together, all the churches. We Armenian Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, every week, we get together to arrange this service, this diaconate to our people and to all.

The third very important thing that we have learnt during this war is the sense of solidarity. Solidarity not only among us Christians, ecumenism, but solidarity with everyone else, even with Muslims, solidarity between neighbours, solidarity between relatives, between big and small, between rich and poor. Great solidarity was created in Aleppo, I would say thanks to this civil war. What moves me the most is to see so many people, so many faithful that used to come to help the Church and to contribute to the parish charity, now they have to come and ask for help. We have become a nation of mendicants, we live on the alms of others. We are refugees in our homes and it is very, very difficult to see persons that used to live well and now they are reduced to nothing, to standing in line and waiting their turn to fetch water, to get some milk, to take money and food. It is very difficult. Our Archdiocese has already become a welcoming place. All churches have opened their doors to welcoming.

Three weeks ago a lady came to me for help. A poor woman and you know well that if you do not give something to the poor it is a problem, a problem of conscience, but if you give it is a worry because she will come back the next day. Poor people are insistent, they want everything. They are poor, yes, but sometimes they are also selfish. After taking the help, the woman returned after two days to ask for another help with the tests for an operation. She was back again after two days to ask for money for medicines. After two days, for the fourth time, she came back to me. I said to myself: but there are many others in need. That’s enough! I wanted to send her away to give way to others in need, perhaps more than her, but I said to myself: okay, I can receive her for the last time. The woman came to me and had a package in his hands and said: father these are scarves, wool scarves for families more in need than me. Please give these to the children for this winter.

Very dear brothers, thank God we can learn so much from the poor, who are poor perhaps in money, in resources, but they have a rich soul. A spirit blessed by God. I ask for your support, your prayers, especially these days because we want to live and stay attached to our land. We will not abandon our people. We all pray for the end of the war, for a ceasefire and for peace. Thank you Lord because you are with us and bless us from heaven. Amen!