"For me, the first thing is humanity. All people. We help everyone a lot. We do not distinguish between Catholics and Orthodox or Muslims. We help everyone, but especially the poorest, the handicapped," Battah said.
The archbishop has also helped to open a house to care for intellectually disabled people in Syria, in Bab Tuma, close to where St. Paul was converted and baptized. He said he drew inspiration for this initiative after spending six months volunteering with the L'Arche community in France years ago.
"If you want peace, you must think of the poorest in the world," he said.
There are currently more Syriac Catholics living outside of Syria than within the war-torn country. In 2019, the diaspora population of Syriac Catholics totaled 55,000, while only 26,000 lived in Syria, according to Vatican News. There are an estimated 42,000 Syriac Catholics living in Iraq.
Battah himself recently returned to Syria after living outside of the country for more than a decade while teaching in Rome and Lebanon. He returned after he was elected archbishop of the Syrian capital by the Synod of the Patriarchal Church of Antioch of the Syrians in July 2019.
"When they elected me to return to my country, I was happy. I am in my land, with my people," he commented.
Battah said that he was excited about Pope Francis' upcoming trip to the region. The pope is scheduled to visit Iraq on March 5-8.
"I would like to go to Iraq when Pope Francis comes," the archbishop said, adding that he had fond memories of Pope John Paul II's trip to Syria in May 2001. He was the rector of the patriarchal seminary of Charfet at the time but came to Damascus for the occasion.
The archbishop added that he was especially grateful to Pope Francis for calling for a world day of prayer and fasting for Syria.
Pope Francis called upon the international community last year to make the suffering of the Syrian people a "priority in respect to every other interest," insisting that the world cannot "look away from this humanitarian crisis."
In December, the pope sent a video message to an online meeting of representatives of 50 Catholic charities and other Church bodies present in Syria and Iraq, encouraging the groups to continue working to rebuild Syria.
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"In particular, I remember the Christians forced to abandon the places where they were born and grew up, where their faith developed and was enriched," the pope said.
"We must ensure that the Christian presence in these lands continues to be what it has always been: a sign of peace, progress, development, and reconciliation between persons and peoples."