11/09/2012, 00.00
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Card. Sarah "a father" for Syrian refugees, Christians and Muslims

The President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum yesterday visited the refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley. Fr. Simon Faddoul president of Caritas Lebanon tells AsiaNews about the emotion of refugees, mostly Muslims. A mother with a child of four months asked the cardinal to take the child to save him from this terrible situation. In tent cities water, electricity, food is lacking. An appeal to Westerners to open their "eyes, ears and hearts to the suffering of the Syrian brothers."

Beirut (AsiaNews) - "Not just material aid, but compassion and love for the Syrian people, as well as the closeness of the entire Catholic Church and the daily prayer of the Pope." This is the message delivered by Card. Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum sent on mission to all the Syrian refugees in Lebanon on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI. Yesterday, the Cardinal visited areas of the Bekaa Valley (eastern Lebanon), where hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria are concentrated.

Card. Sara's mission replaces the visit to Syria by a Holy See Delegation announced during the Synod for the New Evangelization and cancelled due to the increasingly dangerous conditions on  the ground.

Fr. Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon and organizer of the cardinal's visit, describes the extraordinary welcome Card. Sarah received: "On arriving in one of the camps in the Bekaa Valley, he was hailed as a father. A crowd of people gathered around moved by our delegation. Almost all were Muslims, who thanked the Vatican, the Pope and the whole Church for their selfless work. A mother with a child of four months explicitly asked the cardinal to take the child to save him from this terrible situation. " The priest adds that hundreds of people, children, women, the elderly have launched an appeal to the Pope asking him to do everything in his power to influence the highest political levels and to end the war between the Syrian army and rebels.

The priest said that the situation in the refugee camps with hundreds of thousands of refugees is terrible. The government has not yet regularized spaces and people are building makeshift shelters with whatever they can find. "The situation - he continues - is terrible: open sewers, undrinkable water, heaps of refuse. Nobody has access to electricity and water, and only Caritas has installed solar panels where possible." "To this day - adds Fr. Faddoul - Caritas is the only organization active in all refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley, which in recent months has collected most of the Syrians. Hopefully our funds will last so we can continue our job".

The president of Caritas says that the Pope has charged Card. Sarah with two messages: the first is one of compassion and love for all the people affected and his prayers. "This love - he explains - was immediately translated in a concrete way with the delivery of humanitarian aid and money from many Catholic organizations abroad. Benedict XVI himself personally contributed the sum of one million dollars." In addition to his spiritual and material commitment, the pontiff related to the Syrian people his attempts to influence the political arena with repeated appeals that for a resolution to the situation in Syria, which sees the conflicting interests of various nations. "As the Cardinal pointed out - said Fr. Faddoul - the Pope wants to bring attention to the plight of the Syrian population, which, unfortunately, has been buried by other interests."

According to Fr. Faddoul the population of Western countries is distracted because it follows the situation only through the media, and does not know what is happening on the ground. As pointed out several times by the Pope and again by the Cardinal during his visit, they must share the pain of these people. On behalf of Caritas Lebanon, the priest appeals to all readers of AsiaNews: "Open your eyes, your ears and your heart to the suffering of your fellow Syrians."

The visit of Card. Sarah will end on November 10. Today, he will meet with representatives of about 20 Catholic charitable agencies operating in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. The non-stop meeting, from 9 to 17, will coordinate the humanitarian efforts of the Catholic Church in the region, including assessment of the projects to be financed with the donation of Benedict XVI. (S.C.)


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