07/31/2023, 20.40
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Archeparch Nassar: Syrian Christians lost their main assets, family and vocations

For the Archeparch of Damascus, the family unit was "united and close-knit". There was "an abundance of vocations." Now it is rare to find an "entire family” with exiled fathers, sick or depressed mothers, and children abroad. From 120 in 2019, today only 37 seminarians are left. For Christians in the Syrian capital, praying at the Shrine of the Martyrs is their Wall of Lamentation.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – Syrian Christians lost two important assets, the family and vocations, as a result of the country’s brutal civil war and the serious economic crisis that followed, compounded by Western sanctions against the regime of President of Bashar al-Assad, this according to Maronite Archeparch Samir Nassar of Damascus.

In a piece he sent to AsiaNews, he writes that in the past, “the strength of our church depended on a united and close-knit family, and on the abundance of vocations.”

The situation of Christians in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, or the Gulf) has been a source of concern for some time, due to an ongoing exodus and a minority mindset that must be overcome.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Card Pietro Parolin, said as much during a Mass marking the tenth anniversary of Fr Paolo Dall'Oglio’s abduction on 29 July 2013 whose fate remains unknown to this day.

“Christians are citizens whose freedoms must be guaranteed,” the prelate said. “They belong to these peoples in their own right, and have always contributed to their cultural, economic and political development with dedication and competence.”

For the archeparch of Damascus, the family and vocations are the two pillars who support the life of Syria’s Christians.

However, “it is rare nowadays to find an entire family. Twelve years of war have delocalised the family: the father is either exiled or emigrated. The mother is sick or depressed, the children are abroad, each one in a different country.” Even "grandparents," he adds, "once honoured at home, are now isolated and die in silence.”

“The massive flight from mandatory military service is reflected in the lack of young men; a situation which decreases marriages and births,” the prelate explains.

“Therefore, a demographic weakening, empty houses, and Churches thirsty for its faithful. The family, a strong pillar of faith is a shaken asset.”

Thus, a family structure in crisis is compounded by a drop in vocations, which is making things harder for those who have not emigrated.

“The abundance of vocations was a factor linked to the family. Weakened families lead to a crisis at the seminary as well. Thus, instead of 120 seminarians in 2019, the number in 2023 was only 37 seminarians. Novitiates also show a greater decline.”

This is the result of “the massive exodus of Christians from the East,” Archeparch Nassar laments. “The last four years were the hardest, and for the first time we feel closer to the bottom of the abyss.”

The weakening of these two assets has led the faithful to the Shrine of the Martyrs dedicated to eleven Franciscan missionaries and three lay Maronites killed by Druze on the night of 9 to 10 July 1860, who were beatified by Pius XI in 1926.

This has provided an opportunity “to meditate on the meaning of sacrifice and self-giving,” the prelate notes.

“To the many martyrs of 1860 in Damascus, many new martyrs have been added during this heavy crisis that has torn Syria apart since 2011. Silent prayers filled with tears find refuge in the ultimate meaning of Christian witness, the First Martyr, our ultimate Wall of Lamentation, our only Hope.”

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