Archbishop Gugerotti concludes visit to Syria and Turkey

The prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches speaks about his recent visit to the earthquake-hit zones of Syria and Turkey, where he consoled families being cared for by Church and local authorities and called for coordinated efforts in bringing aid safely and most effectively to those in need.

By Vatican News staff reporter

The visit of Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches, to earthquake zones in Syria and Turkey has come to a conclusion. In recent days the Archbishop visited the countries hit by the massive earthquake on February 6, which has claimed over 47,000 lives.

In particular, he spent two days in Aleppo, Syria, where he met with many families who have found temporary shelter in spaces run by religious communities, Christian and Muslim, or in public buildings and schools. He offered consolation and encouragement to the many people who are suffering, especially mothers, the disabled, and the elderly who are without surviving family.

In addition to Aleppo, where an emergency commission involving all the Christian denominations in the city has been created, he also looked at the humanitarian outreach in areas of the coast and Lattaquie in particular, as well as the province of Idlib. In coordination with the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus, Syria, which is providing ongoing humanitarian assistance and coordinating efforts, support is being offered to the Episcopal Commission for the Service of Charity by sourcing and providing expert collaborators.

A baby born in the days of the earthquake is presented to Archbishop Gugerotti

A baby born in the days of the earthquake is presented to Archbishop Gugerotti

In an interview with Vatican News’ Antonella Palermo, Archbishop Gugerotti said his visit to Turkey and Syria focused primarily on conveying the good wishes, blessing, and solidarity of Pope Francis, while also concretely trying to grasp how best the Church can assist the people. He noted the challenges of providing badly needed humanitarian aid, especially in the war zones of Syria where there are many difficulties due to the ongoing conflict. He lamented the suffering in Syria in particular, compounded by twelve years of war that has torn society there apart, and the urgent need for reconciliation and peace in the country, with the common good as the priority focus of all.

He noted how in Syria people are unable to leave and are forced to remain in areas that have been totally destroyed, lacking health services, schools, and employment, all made worse as a result of the isolation caused by the sanctions imposed due to the civil war. Many are not aware of this dire situation facing the people here in particular, he lamented, saying, “Who speaks about Syria? Nobody does,” in reference to media coverage. 

After visiting with the survivors in both countries, offering consolation and encouragement, he appealed to all those in the position to assist to “think globally about the problems of the country we are taking into consideration,” and to rethink more profoundly the political reality and how it can be changed for the better while we all work to ensure emergency humanitarian aid gets through to those who need it. 

One of the meetings with earthquake-affected families