Image: Church at Seidnayya, which has many precious icons
ASIA/SYRIA – Church desecrated by bandits, then furnish returned and ceremony of reconciliation
Homs (Agenzia Fides) – An act of vandalism, then the apology and reconciliation. This happened in Qara, in the diocese of Homs (Western Syria), where on November 19 the ancient church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, of the sixth century, was desecrated by vandals who forced the door. The vandals stole over 20 icons (of the eighteenth and nineteenth century), ancient manuscripts and vestments. They desecrated the altar and tried to steal a famous fresco of the twelfth century, the “Madonna del Latte”. While they were trying to remove it, the fresco was ruined, causing two cuts to the figure of the Virgin.
As soon as the news spread in Qara, a town under the full control of the Syrian opposition, a strong solidarity movement in all communities developed. Heads of families, tribal leaders, Muslim leaders and other denominations came to visit the church and to show bitterness and solidarity towards the Greek Catholic priest Fr. Georges Luis who, with a Greek-Orthodox priest, continues to celebrate Mass for the few Christian families in Qara, keeping alight the flame of faith.
The Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim and Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham were warned and urged both the government and the opposition to ensure security in the country that, they said, “is sinking into chaos”, given the acts of banditry, kidnappings, assaults, massacres, bombings of residential areas.
The faithful Christian and Muslim in Qara gathered in prayer vigils. Yesterday, November 21, the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, what happened is defined by the local community as “a miracle.” In the morning a truck with masked men came to the church. The group asked to meet Fr. Georges. As reported to Fides by the priest, the men told him: “We do not appreciate what our companions have done. Please forgive us. We are one community, one people, one nation. Your safety is ours. You are under our responsibility.” Most of the stolen items – otherwise destined for the market of smuggling – were returned, with great joy and relief on behalf of everyone. Fr. Georges served Arabic coffee to the guests and many other people in the neighborhood joined the convivial moment. The locals celebrated by offering cakes in the street. A ending in the name of reconciliation that the local movement “Mussalaha” blessed and favored. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 22/11/2012)