Fides, the Vatican news agency, has a report from inside Damscus from the Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar. The news is distressing to say the least:
"One lives an apocalypse in Damascus, and we hope with all our heart, mind and strength, that resurrection may soon arrive": is the message sent to Fides Agency by His Exc. Mgr. Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus. In the dramatic testimony, the Archbishop said: "Since Tuesday fighting has been raging in Damascus with heavy weapons, tanks and helicopters, in a city full of civilians. The destruction is enormous. What an ordeal! The clashes are taking place in the streets and moving from one district to another. I cannot sleep for fear and for the noise of bombs and gunfire. The temperature is above 40° [104° F] and often there are power outages. There is insufficient supply in many areas, we are short of bread, vegetables, cooking gas and fuel for the furnaces. The population is terrified and does not know where to take shelter. The roads to Jordan, Iraq, to Aleppo and the north area of Homs are closed. You see a long snake of people fleeing on the road to Lebanon: an exodus that occurs in the general panic."
Turning to the displaced of Damascus, the Archbishop says: "I hope you find a home, remembering that in the past, the Syrians welcomed the Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqis refugees."
Mgr. Nassar continues: "The few faithful who had the courage to come to Mass lit many candles at the tomb of the Blessed Martyrs of Damascus. They exchanged greetings and tears, in fear of seeing each other for the last time, before returning home between gunfire and explosions." The violence that has torn the other cities of Syria had been spared in Damascus: "Now it is our turn to suffer and die. We have just built a shelter under the stairs, to escape the bombs and the cellars of the parish have been cleared up. It is an apocalypse: we hope that resurrection arrives soon, after much suffering."
Another report from Vatican Insider hints at the extremely precarious position of Christian leaders in Syria and average Christians as they attempt to negotiate the nation's volatile political conditions. Assad has been a protector to the Christian minority, but clearly supporting him through thick and thin carries its own weighty risks and even a perfectly executed diplomacy is no guarantee that things will turn out well for Christians in the end whoever ends up in charge in Damascus. Apparently anticipating an Assad collapse, Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham, leader of the largest Catholic community in Syria has released a 24 point statement defending Syria's Christian leaders against accusations of scheming with the Assad regime. “The State and its leaders,” Gregory wrote, “have never suggested or invited pastors to make a declaration or adopt a certain position. The freedom of pastors has been guaranteed everywhere to date, both in behavioural terms and in terms of public and private declarations."
The church's efforts to during the past year to promote stability and national reconcililation, then to press for a peaceful resolution to the crisis are now apparently viewed by some within the Syrian resistance as evidence of collusion with the regime. Some early reports from church sources which seemed to confirm the Assad regime's version of events may come back to haunt them if the regime indeed falls.