Maronite Archbishop: 'Is this the twilight of Christianity in Syria?'

Antonia Moffat met Archbishop Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus in the Lebanon recently, during a visit to Christian refugees with Aid to the Church in Need. Antonia, (pictured with the Archbishop) writes: “I gave him a small Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham as a pledge of our continuing prayer and solidarity from the peoples of England, Mary's Dowry. The Archbishop has placed this statue on his office desk in Damascus.”

The most recent of the Archbishop's Letters dated June 29th 2017 follows below. Is this the twilight of the Church in Syria he asks …. the greatest casualties of the war are the Family, the Young People and the Church.

Rowing Against the Current

This seventh year of war is reaping the bitter fruit of successive violence storms that have shattered the Syrian society’s peace. Here are the main three victims: families, young people and the Church.

1) A shattered family: This basic unit in the Syrian society that had previously saved its country in crisis has lost its identity. Dispersed, deprived of resources, without shelter, in grief, ravaged by disease, old people – the head of the family in the past - are increasingly isolated and find no assistance whatsoever. Forced to row against the current during these seven years of violence, can this shattered and fragile family keep standing?

2) Tormented young people: In the past, young people were the strength of our society, now they’re divided between the battlefield fronts of war and the massive and prolonged military service evasion in the general mobilization. Great quantities of young people leave the country, leaving a huge emptiness behind. Their absence is felt in the Syrian economic activity creating a pronounced shortage of manual labor and weakening of the already fragile local economy. How can we guarantee the survival of a country deprived of its active workforces?

3) A church that questions herself: There hasn’t been one single baptism or marriage in the last eight months. The diminishing of sacraments has been felt in the last five years. The absence of young people has big repercussions in the parish life.
Sunday practices, catechism, first communion and parish activities have diminished considerably and contribute to the exodus of priests that have seen their practices reduced to the minimal service and are extremely discouraged.

Can’t we see in these changes the beginning of a twilight?

These structural mutations invite us to question ourselves concerning the pastoral traditions.

Such an old Apostolic Church, rooted in tradition and customs, can she take steps towards a new type of Christian testimony?

In order to save the last witnesses of the Gospel, our little church relies in the Holy Spirit, who can solely guide a new Pentecost.


Damascus, 29 June 2017.
+ Samir NASSAR
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus

Tags: Archbishop Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Antonia Moffat

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