Aleppo, Syria, Nov 7, 2015 / 04:23 am
When a missile hit the roof of the church of Saint Francis Parish in Aleppo, Syria, the congregation didn't flee.
Instead, they continued Mass outside, confident in the Virgin Mary's protection.
"If the bomb had gone off on top of the dome, there could have been a tragedy," said Father Ibrahim Alsabagh, the Mass celebrant. "Even if it had made the chandelier fall, it could have killed about 10 people. As I told my congregation, it was the Virgin's mantle that protected us."
About 400 people were attending Oct. 25 Sunday Mass, but only six suffered minor injuries.
The attack took place at 5 p.m. According to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the priest said that the missile was probably launched from the old town area of Aleppo, which is controlled by jihadist rebels.
Fr. Alsabagh decided to continue Mass in the church garden after the faithful had calmed down.
"Some people were surprised at my reaction. But it's in the Lord that we find our strength, in union with Him through prayer. The strength to carry on, and even with more energy now that we have to repair our church," he said.
Fr. Alsabagh is a priest of the Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land. He told ACN that the attack was tied to anti-Christian hatred. He said previous attacks have targeted this church as well.
"There are some who want to eliminate any possible sign of reconciliation and openness," he said.
"We long for the end of this chaos and that we'll soon be able to talk about these incidents as something from the past. And without fear that the attacks could happen again at any moment."
In recent weeks the bombardments in Aleppo and other Syrian cities have intensified since Russian warplanes began to take part in the four-year-old civil war.
The Russian military command has reportedly maintained that it is targeting rebel and jihad groups, including both ISIS and U.S.-backed rebel groups, which are fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.