In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Syrian Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo talks candidly about the current difficulties in Syria, and about the hope that Pope Francis might be able to broker a peace agreement. Excerpts from the National Catholic Reporter interview:
ROME — Catholics everywhere are holding their breath to see what Francis might do as pope, but arguably nowhere is the sense of expectation more intense than in Syria, where the country’s small Christian minority is literally fighting for its life.
On Thursday, the Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo floated the idea that perhaps a pope from Argentina, who isn’t perceived as aligned with any of the major parties to the Syrian conflict, could be the one to cajole major powers such as the United States and Russia to get serious about peace.”What we want is for the fighting to stop and reconciliation to begin, and if he can help us, it would be a great gift,” said Bishop Antoine Audo in an interview with NCR….
NCR: Does this pope bring anything special in terms of an ability to help the Christians in the Middle East?
I hope that he will do something directly for us. Of course, every pope has his own personality, his own originality. This pope is very concerned for the poor; he’s very simple; he’s a man of peace. On the other hand, the Catholic church is more than a pope. It’s a tradition, including the Second Vatican Council and its theology. The pope works inside this tradition, adding his own personality….
NCR: What can the church outside Syria do to be of help to you?
The war is producing an economic crisis, which means that everybody is becoming poor. Support from the different organizations such as Caritas, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and Aid to the Church in Need is very important. Inside Syria, we coordinate this work to make our work precise and to support the poorest among the people….
NCR: Beyond physically going to Syria, is there something else dramatic the pope could do right away to raise awareness?
If he speaks about peace in Syria, that would be a very big sign for us. In addition, he could invite the patriarchs of the Middle East or the bishops of Syria to a meeting to ask for our reflections, which could move something in the society. He could also send an important cardinal to represent him in Syria, to visit communities. It would help Christians to stay, to no longer feel that they’re alone. That’s very important.