Catholic prelates in Syria, accompanied by Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, visited the eastern Ghouta region outside of Damascus and saw "unspeakable suffering".
"In every face, mostly the children" was a "very confused" expression, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said. The visit was part of the annual session of the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Syria.
Patriarch Younan said the overall reaction of the prelates while visiting Douma, the major city of eastern Ghouta, "was deep sadness and repulsion" in seeing "the horrible destruction of that region, held hostage for such a long time by radical Muslims".
Patriarch Younan noted that "evidently, this visit had an impact on Cardinal Tagle, who expressed his deep grief in front of so much suffering", adding that the cardinal compared the scenes to an earthquake or typhoon.
"Besides the humanitarian assistance so much needed and the urgent help to rebuild their city, it is mostly and, first of all, hope and dignity that this courageous community was looking for," the patriarch added.
Outreach In addition to Patriarch Younan and Cardinal Tagle, participants in the meeting and the Ghouta outreach included Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi, who hosted the council session at the patriarchate in Damascus; and Catholic bishops of Syria.
Ghouta, the last rebel bastion east of the capital city of Damascus, was secured by the Syrian government in April 2018. At one point, some 400,000 people were under siege in Ghouta, according to the UN. It was the site of alleged chemical attacks.
Patriarch Younan characterised the suffering in the city as "unspeakable".
"It is shameful that the so-called free world was accomplice to that disaster for no reason than satisfying the greed and opportunism of its politicians. All fake news of the agglomerate media, like the show play of chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian soldiers, were based on lies, in order to keep the fighting going on," Patriarch Younan said.