“Sobriety out of respect for the victims”
An invitation to live “this Christmas in moderation, away from outward lights, in the richness of inner Light” comes today from Damascus, where the Ordinary Assembly of the Catholic bishops of Syria, chaired by the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem, Gregorios III (Laham) has just closed. “For this Christmas,” said Gregorios III to SIR (Religious Information Service-Italy) “we have asked our faithful for sobriety, out of profound respect for the many Syrians who have lost their lives during the months of violence, and their families. Sobriety and silence must accompany the prayers of these days, which, I hope, may be rich with inner and not outward light. The homes of our people should become little caves of Bethlehem in which to pray and meditate.”
These recommendations are contained in a letter which the Patriarch, just today, has had read out in all parishes. “Let us avoid Christmas decorations and give pride of place to meditation and prayer,” reiterates Gregorios III, who recalls that “the liturgies of the Nativity will take place as usual in churches. We have never had trouble celebrating our masses and it will be the same this time. I think it’s a sign of hope.” The Assembly, which lasted three days, witnessed yesterday evening in the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral in Damascus, the celebration of an ecumenical prayer service “for Syria,” which was attended by representatives of the various Syrian Orthodox and Catholic Churches. “For an hour,” the Patriarch said, “we prayed to ask for reconciliation and peace in our country. We are working for unity and dialogue. We want to reaffirm that Christians are Syrians and want to work for the country to which we reiterate our loyalty. We need freedom, and to heal divisions and recover the unity of all the Syrians, regardless of creed or ethnicity. This tragic situation has to end as soon as possible for the good of the people. Syrians are able to solve their problems and iron out differences on their own without any outside intervention.” The ecumenical service was also broadcast live on television.