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Easter: Mideast Church Leaders Pray for Peace in Syria

A man mourns the death of relatives while people search for casualties under the rubble at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, on 30 March. In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East as well as Pope Francis highlighted the need for an end to the war in Syria. (photo: CNS/Ziad Rev, Reuters)  

01 Apr 2013 – By Doreen Abi Raad

BEIRUT (CNS) — In Easter messages, Catholic patriarchs in the Middle East highlighted the need for an end to the war in Syria, now entering its third year.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter appealed “to the disputants in Syria, who are so intent in demolishing the homes of peaceful citizens, [the country’s] institutions and history, and the killing of dozens of innocent people a day ... we appeal to them to put away their arms and refuse the money given to them from the outside world, whose interest is only to demolish Syria and other Arab countries.”

The patriarch, who is also a cardinal and a recent participant in the papal conclave, urged Syrians “to draw closer to God and to sit at the negotiation table with courage.”

The cardinal also called on countries that border Syria to coordinate the reception of and aid for refugees and warned Lebanon not to be used as a passage for weapons.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman said on 14 March that the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had reached 1 million, equal to one-quarter of the country’s population, and that Lebanon lacked the “physical, human or geographical capabilities to provide the appropriate assistance.”

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, who was born in Hassake, Syria, condemned violence in the region and the use of arms “under the pretext of spreading democracy and the reforming of ideas.

“Our hearts and thoughts are on Syria,” which is “dominated by destruction and fragmentation,” he said. He urged all parties involved in the conflict to rely on dialogue, understanding and reconciliation, instead of violence and extremism, “which would only lead to more death and destruction and fragmentation.”

Syrian-born Melkite Patriarch Gregory III reiterated his appeal to the world “to work to stop the outpouring of Syrian blood.”

“There has been enough suffering,” he said. “There have been enough tragedies, pain, violence, terrorism, arms trafficking, fundamentalism and business at the expense of human life, dignity, daily bread and security.

“Therefore, the world needs evangelization, the Gospel of the Resurrection and life,” he added.

“We beseech the Savior, risen from the dead, that as his Way of the Cross ended in the Resurrection, so may the Arab world’s painful, bloody, tragic Via Crucis end also in resurrection, especially in Syria and the countries affected by the crisis, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Iraq, besides other Arab countries that are suffering or causing suffering in other countries,” Patriarch Laham said.

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Tags: Syria Syrian Civil War Middle East Eastern Churches Patriarchs