His Holiness Catholicos Aram I met with the faithful and clergy in Aleppo last Thursday, February 16, following the earthquake that hit Syria and the Armenian region of Cilicia, occupied by Turkey.
In his pontifical visit, the Catholicos expressed the support of the Holy See for the Armenian-Syrian community in this hour of need.
Accompanied by his retinue, His Holiness was received at the Armenian Church of the Holy Mother of God by His Grace Bishop Magar Ashkarian, Prelate of Aleppo; His Eminence Archbishop Bedros Miritayan, Primate of the Armenian Catholic community of Aleppo; Rev. Dr. Haroutioun Selimian, leader of the Armenian Evangelical community of Aleppo; Consul Babgen Patalyan, of the Armenian Consulate General of Aleppo; Armenian-Syrian MP Jirayr Reyisian, as well as other community leaders and members.
A traditional blessing of bread and salt took place at the entrance of the church, in the presence of Hamazkayin’s “Sardarabad” dance troupe, following which His Holiness entered the church, where he presided over the Divine Liturgy dedicated to the feast of Saints Vartnanantz. Rev. Fr. Rev. Zareh Shakarian celebrated the Divine Liturgy.
Following welcoming remarks by Bishop Magar, the Catholicos addressed the public. “I came to Aleppo to share your pain, to hear your concerns and to learn more about the damages caused by the earthquake,” he said. “It is a miracle that we exist today, we became a small nation, but we survived by turning to God, and strengthening our lives in the presence of God.”
He added that our people are facing challenges almost everywhere, including Armenia, Karabakh, Lebanon, and Syria.
“The form and degree of anxiety is different, but essentially our nation is surrounded by anxiety, our life is full of anxiety,” His Holiness said. “In these conditions, we should not despair, but strengthened by our faith, we should turn to God, always saying: ‘You, God, are the source of our life’s strength.’”
In a press conference afterwards, he urged the international community to lift the sanctions against Syria.
“Adding my voice to the collective voice of the Church leaders of Syria, I urge the international community to end the sanctions imposed on Syria and tend as soon as possible to the basic needs of the Syrian people,” the Catholicos said. “The severe consequences of the earthquake can get worse if proper measures are not adopted quickly.”