Reopening much loved war-damaged cathedral a silver lining

Reopening a war-damaged cathedral in the Syrian city of Aleppo has provided a sliver lining for the community.

The Maronite Cathedral of Saint Elijah has special significance for Maronite Catholics in the area.

After lying in ruins for several years, Christmas Mass was celebrated in the cathedral in 2016 amid debris and ash.

The war-damaged cathedral has now been fully renovated with the help of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). It was formally reopened July 20.

Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji said the moment had both symbolic and practical meaning.

“It is a message to the parishioners and Christians in Aleppo and the world that we are still in this country despite our dwindling numbers, and the restoration of the cathedral is proof of this,” he said during the reopening.

Being determined to stay “is a ‘mission’ and not just because we were born here, or because we are obliged to stay here against our will,” he explained.

The decision to restore the cathedral, “was self-evident, just like a family who wanted to renovate our only house that brought us together” as Maronites have no other place to gather together for worship, Tobji says.

Once the fighting in Aleppo was over, Tobji said he came back to the cathedral and saw a caved in ceiling, collapsed dome, scorched walls and shards of wood and plaster were on the floor where pews and statues once stood.

“I said to myself: As we all suffered as human beings, so did the house of God and the house of the congregation.”

“This house (the church) played a role in receiving the blows themselves in order to protect the surrounding civilians,” so he gave thanks to God, “who uses means that we may not understand for salvation.”

Tobji says the project cost over $450,000 all of which was raised and donated by he help of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The charity has funded about 100 additional projects in Syria.

ACN says only about a third of Syria’s pre-Civil War 1.5 million Christians remain. In Aleppo, which had around 180,000 Christians, there are currently just 30,000.

Currently in its 10th year, the Civil War has left thousands dead and millions displaced. Millions more are living in poverty.


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