Vatican News

July 21, 2010 : A Catholic cathedral in Syria, repeatedly struck and gravely damaged during the country’s almost nine-year war, reopened this week, following its restoration.

The Maronite Cathedral of St. Elijah in the northern city of Aleppo was bombarded with missiles on at least three occasions between 2012 and 2016 and suffered extensive damage when jihadists entered the city’s Christian quarter in 2013.

The restoration was financed largely by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Maronite Archbishop, Joseph Tobij of Aleppo told Vatican News the restoration and re-opening of the cathedral have both a symbolic and practical meaning.

The reopening on 20 July of the 19th-century Cathedral celebrates a new lease on life for the Christians of Aleppo as the building had been devastated in 2013 by a group of jihadists whose aim was to destroy all signs of Christianity in the country.

Archbishop Tobij said the main difficulties encountered in the restoration were the raising of funds and the reconstruction of the original wooden roof.

Local artisans, he explained, lacked expertise in this area so a group of Italian architects stepped in to redesign the roof project.

Archbishop Tobij continued, "Without the help of ACN and the generosity of our benefactors we would not have been able to pray again and spread hope in the hearts of the faithful through the reconstruction of the cathedral.”

Archbishop Tobij said there have been no liturgies or other celebrations in the cathedral for eight years. Now, he said, “we resume life” and “it is a way to tell the people in Aleppo, in Syria and the world, that we still exist. We still exist, despite the great decline in the number of our Christians.”

ACN estimates that only 30,000 Christians remain in the city, compared to a pre-war population of 180,000. Aleppo was Syria’s most populous city before the war. It is now the second largest after the capital, Damascus.

The Maronite Archbishop noted that just like the territory and the population, the cathedral suffered great violence. Its rebirth is thanks to collaboration and solidarity.

Archbishop Tobij concluded with an appeal for prayers for the people of Syria “because prayer does a lot, it goes beyond the human and there is the Lord who acts.”

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Catholic News from Syria

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