Aleppo Monastery hit – but no one dead
By John Newton
MIRACULOUSLY no one was killed when Aleppo’s Jesuit monastery was hit during the battle for Aleppo – as the Sunday vigil Mass was moved to another church.
A Church worker who was in the monastery in the west of the city when it was shelled told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need what had happened. He said: “On Saturday 10th, at 5.45 pm, a missile hit the Jesuit monastery where our office is located. We thank God that the daily Mass scheduled at that time was moved to a different location… and was held at the Franciscan church.”
(Mass devastation in Aleppo caused by ongoing missile blasts © Aid to the Church in Need)
Usually there would have been a half-hour of meditation followed by Mass at 6pm at the Jesuit monastery, but as Jesuit priest Fr Ziad Hilal was leading a mini retreat for the Franciscan Sisters the location of Mass was moved. Fr Hilal oversees Aid to the Church in Need emergency relief projects in Syria.
The Church worker who was on site when the bombs fell told ACN: “Suddenly I heard a violent explosion, followed by a second. I threw myself on the ground and a third explosion followed. After a few minutes of silence, I left my office and I saw rubble everywhere. Then there was a fourth explosion and I threw myself on the ground on the debris from the broken glass.” He said: “The damage to the building is massive – broken glass and rubble are scattered everywhere, but thanks to God almighty nobody was injured because it happened at the weekend.”
The number of shells striking the government-held part of Aleppo has fallen since the push to seize the rebel held eastern part began. The Church worker said: “As for the western part of the city, arbitrary hand-made missiles, gas-tank-shaped bombs, and mortar shells still target the heavily populated civilian areas although the number has dropped significantly within these two weeks since the Syrian Army offensive on the opposition territories.”
Describing recent events during the fight for the city, he said: “During this month [December], the Syrian Army and its allies have regained control over 80 percent of Aleppo city.” Rebel groups seized parts of the east of the city in 2012. “The besieged opposition territory shrunk to only nine districts within the city limits. Lots of civilian have fled the opposition-controlled three-months-besieged areas and fled to the west side of the city due to heavy bombardment and scarcity of food and gas.”
According to estimates by the Aleppo branch of the Syrian Red Crescent 20-50,000 have fled in to west Aleppo over the last few weeks. The Church worker said: “They are initially received at Al-Mahalej area for a few days, then they are relocated to Jibreen and Hanano areas. The Red Crescent and other humanitarian organisations are doing their best to ease the suffering of those mostly in need.”
Church sources state that many of those flocking in to the west require psychological help for the trauma they have experienced. Aid to the Church in Need has provided over $20 million in emergency aid for Syria since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011. The charity is appealing for donations to provide ongoing food, heating, clothing and shelter during the winter months.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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