08 August 2016, The Tablet

Embattled nuns in Aleppo appeal for prayers and support

The Carmelites refuse to leave Aleppo despite difficult conditions

Despite intense bombardment and severe water and food shortages, several Carmelite nuns are refusing to leave the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo and have appealed for urgent aid and prayers.

“It is only the poorest of the people who are still left here in Aleppo”, according to Sr Anne-Francoise, a French Discalced Carmelite. “We have no water, no electricity, and the fighting is continuing incessantly,” she told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need last week, adding, “how can we abandon these people in their suffering? Our presence is important for them.” She pleaded: “Please don’t forget us; we need your prayers and your practical help!”

The Carmelite nuns, four Syrian and two French, have taken in a number of internally displaced families and are also supporting other families with limited resources. 

The five-year civil war has reached a critical point in Aleppo, which has seen fierce clashes between Syrian government troops and opposing rebels. The nuns’ convent is on the outskirts of Aleppo, in an area that has often been a focal point of the fighting. “We are constantly hearing the shells pass over our heads,” Sr Anne-Francoise reported. More than 250,000 civilians have been under siege in the city since the middle of July. Around 40,000 of them are Christian - a much smaller number than before the war.

Pope Francis renewed his condemnation of violence and again called for peace in Syria during his address to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square after the Angelus on Sunday. He said: "Dear brothers and sisters - sadly, news continues to reach us from Syria, of civilian victims of the war there, in particular from the city of Aleppo." The Holy Father went on to say: "It is unacceptable that so many defenceless persons - among them many small children - must pay the price for conflict - for the closure of the hearts and the want of a will for peace among the powerful."


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