Residences of Melkite, Maronite Archbishops in Aleppo Ransacked

Fighting in Aleppo, Syria, has not spared the residences of the local Melkite and Maronite Catholic archbishops, according to the Vatican's Fides news agency. The residence of Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart was ransacked during clashes on Aug. 23. The archbishop and several priests who live in the building had fled a few hours earlier to a Franciscan residence in a safer neighborhood. Franciscan Father George Abu Khazen, who cares for the city's Latin-rite Catholics and offered shelter to the Melkites, said that Archbishop Jeanbart was very worried and shaken. "He kept repeating one word: 'Why?'" The archbishop has gone to Lebanon, but one of his assistants was able to return to the house once the Syrian military regained control of the area. He said the house had been broken into and a variety of objects, including computers and a projector, were missing, Father Khazen said. The Maronite archbishop's residence and a museum of Byzantine Christian art in the same neighborhood were both ransacked as well. Father Khazen said it still seems like there is no solution to the Syrian conflict in sight because no one, nationally or internationally, seems able to pressure either side into beginning a real dialogue. The tensions began in March 2011 as part of the pro-democracy Arab Spring movement that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said it spoke to another member of "the local hierarchy, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons." He told Fides that "groups of jihadists"—militant Islamic fighters—from Chechnya, Pakistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Libya have joined the fighting in an attempt to increase "hatred and sectarian conflict." The groups, he said, "have the sole aim of bringing chaos, destruction, atrocities and paralyzing social life. The Syrian civilian population is the victim, but they won't fall for this trap."

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