An ecumenical service was held on Wednesday, 21 March in St. Cyril’s Church in al-Qassa neighbourhood in Damascus for the souls of Syria’s victims of conflict, including those killed in the bombings in Damascus last Saturday.
Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch and All the East, in a brief address, expressed the hope that this cycle of violence would not persist and called all Syrians to resort to dialogue, reconciliation, repentance and calm to preserve unity and vanquish enmity. He also exhorted Syrians to pray for the preservation of Syria and its people, stressing the importance of dialogue to promote the process of renewal and change and emerge from violence.
His Beatitude also stressed the importance of heeding the calls for reforms, noting that this has already begun as the new constitution is a step forward. He voiced confidence in Syrians’ ability to lead reform on their own and achieve their own democracy, freedom and dignity with the participation of all groups.
Patriarch Gregorios noted that during his recent European Peace Pilgrimage, he informed the Pope, and heads of episcopal conferences in Europe and government officials of ways in which they could help to eliminate violence, informing them that Syrian Christians are affected by whatever happens to other Syrians.
He stressed that the role of Christians in Syria and the region during these difficult circumstances is to be peace-makers and bridge-builders, working diligently to preserve the peace and unity of Syria and the Arab world.
Patriarch Gregorios saluted all mothers, particularly those who have lost husbands, children or relatives, on the occasion of Mothers’ Day, as well as congratulating teachers on the occasion of Teachers’ Day (21 March).
After the prayers, participants went in candle-lit procession from the church to the site of the bombing in al-Qassa neighbourhood, where they laid wreaths in honour of the fallen.
The procession was led by Patriarch Gregorios III, the Papal Ambassador in Damascus, Archbishop Mario Zenari, and several Muslim and Christian religious leaders.
During the walk, Muslim preacher and scholar Ahmad Sheikho said that Syria always has and will be the home of all religions and coexistence, and that the prayer and march aimed to instil values of love and peace. Sheikho emphasised that religion rejects murder and calls for amity, peace and cooperation.
On 22 March, His Beatitude, accompanied by the parish priest of St. Cyril’s made visits to hospitals and the homes of victims of the conflict in various districts of Damascus.