Cardinal Zenari recalled that “some of these Good Samaritans,” as many as a few hundred according to the United Nations, were killed while working or volunteering in Syria.
“And these are beautiful signs of hope,” he said.
A priest and Franciscan friar belonging to the Custody of the Holy Land told CNA Friday that Syria is in need of people who work with the sick, the hungry, traumatized children, and those suffering from depression because of the civil war.
“So right now we need Good Samaritans in Syria,” Father Fadi Azar said.
More in Middle East - Africa
Azar has been serving in Syria since 2015. For the last three years he has been based in the port city of Latakia, where his parish has grown from 200 to 750 families, he said, due to the influx of Syrians fleeing other parts of the country.
The priest, who was born and raised in Jordan to Palestinian parents, understands the plight of refugees.
Father Azar also helps run one of the walk-in medical clinics supported by Project Open Hospitals.
“Everyday life is becoming more difficult for the people and a lot of them are dying because they cannot afford to buy their medications,” he explained, calling Project Open Hospitals “an intervention of Divine Providence,” and “a miracle.”
“Our work as religious should be only spiritual,” Azar said, “but right now we are operating in humanitarian [needs].”
Pope Francis said: “When we think of Syria, there comes to mind the verse of the Book of Lamentations: ‘Vast as the sea is your ruin; who can heal you?’ (2:13). Those words refer to the sufferings of Jerusalem, but they also make us think of the suffering endured by the Syrian people in these twelve years of violent conflict.”
“If,” he said, “we consider the number of the dead and wounded, the destruction of entire quarters and villages, as well as important infrastructures, including healthcare institutions, it is natural to ask: ‘Syria, who can now heal you?’”
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Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.