27 January 2017, The Tablet

Vatican officials visit war-torn city of Aleppo to express Pope's 'closeness' with Syrian people

The delegation emphasised the importance of religious leaders working together to promote peace

Conveying Pope Francis' closeness to the Syrian people, a Vatican delegation visited Aleppo this week following the end of the hostilities that left thousands dead and the city in ruins.

Mgr Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary-delegate of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, made a five-day visit to the city from 18-23 January, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, and Mgr Thomas Habib, an official at the nunciature.

The delegation met with "Christian communities and their pastors, who expressed gratitude to the Pope for his constant concern for beloved Syria", said a statement released by the Vatican after the trip.

They also visited several refugee camps and Catholic institutions assisting the relief efforts, including a humanitarian assistance centre run by Caritas Aleppo.

According to the Vatican, during a meeting with the Church's charities, Mgr Dal Toso told volunteers and staff that he hoped their work would be “intensified in the future to meet the growing needs of the people”. He assured them of the support of the universal church and international community.

Members of the delegation also took part in an ecumenical prayer service that coincided with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, as well as several meetings with Islamic representatives.

The "responsibilities of religions in educating for peace and reconciliation" was among the issues discussed during the meetings, the Vatican said.

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