By Vatican News staff writer
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, is starting a nine-day visit to Syria on Monday. The visit, which was originally scheduled for April 2020 and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reflects Pope Francis’ desire to express closeness and solidarity to the suffering Catholic community in the war-torn country and to bring pastoral support.
First stop in Damascus
The Argentinian-born cardinal is expected to arrive on Monday evening in Damascus and will start his trip with a meeting with the Catholic hierarchy in Syria and a Divine Liturgy which he will preside with Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Youssef Absi.
The Vatican Prefect will then meet the priests of the Catholic Melkite Greek districts of Damascus and Bosra-Hauran and visit the offices of Caritas Syria, of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, the Orphanage of Saint Paul, the Dispensary of Kachkoul, the Italian and French hospitals, Salesians as well as the headquarters of the Syriac, Chaldean and Armenian Churches. He will also meet the religious congregations of Damascus and Southern Syria at the Memorial of Saint Paul and some accredited diplomats in Syria.
Visits to Tartus, Homs, Aleppo, Yabroud and Maaloula
Cardinal Sandri’s trip will continue with stops in Tartous and Homs, which include Syriac, Maronite and Melkite ecclesiastical circumscriptions, the celebration of a Divine Liturgy and visits to the tomb of the Dutch Jesuit Frans Van Der Lugt, who was killed by rebel militias in 2014 during the siege of Homs. He will also visit the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox cathedrals of the city.
The Prefect will then move to Aleppo where he will preside a Latin Rite Mass, meet the local religious, priests and heads of charities and charitable associations, and take part in an ecumenical prayer followed by an interreligious meeting. In Aleppo, the Prefect will also stop for a brief prayer in each of the city’s six Catholic cathedrals.
On his way back to Damascus Cardinal Sandri will make two short stops in Yabroud and Maaloula. He will leave Damascus for Rome on November 3.