Explaining that he was unable to attend the reopening due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said: “ACN has been with you throughout the most difficult times, and it would have been wonderful if we had been able to celebrate together today. Sadly, the circumstances do not permit this; however, we see the Cathedral of St. Elijah and it is a miracle.”
“It is wonderful to see it shining with its former splendor. I hope that it will once again become the center of the whole Christian community, just as it was before this terrible war.”
ACN estimates that only 30,000 Christians remain in the city, compared to a pre-war population of 180,000. Aleppo was Syria’s most populous city before the war, but now is the second largest after the capital, Damascus.
Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobij of Aleppo said that the cathedral’s restoration had both a symbolic and practical significance.
“In the symbolic sense it is a message to the parishioners and Christians in Aleppo and the world that we are still in this country despite our dwindling numbers, and the restoration of the cathedral is proof of this. The mouths must continue to praise God in this place despite all the difficulties,” he said in an interview with ACN.
The cathedral, which has distinctive twin bell towers and a dome, was originally built in 1873, on the site of a small 15th-century church. It was renovated in 1914.