Maronite Catholics in Damascus are seeking ways to reach out to the marginalized, despite restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the U.S. sanctions against Syria, known as the Caesar Act, which came into effect last June.
Archbishop Samir Nassar of the Maronite Archeparchy of Damascus said the faithful are “trying to find a new way of reaching out to others with a newly formed pastoral approach.”
“This is especially aimed at meeting and helping those living on the outskirts of the city, giving them a possible renewal of life based on the Gospels and a church more connected to their daily lives,” he said in a message he issued at Christmas.
The country, now in its 10th year of war, is also facing “real economic hardship,” he said.
The implementation of the Caesar Act has resulted in continued shortages of food and fuel, as well as skyrocketing inflation. Money belonging to the Syrian people has been blocked in Lebanese banks since October 2019, he said.
The situation in the medical sector continues to worsen, as medicines becomes less available and a growing number of doctors leaves the country, he added.
“COVID-19 has made the social life of the people almost unbearable and has added to their fear and solitude,” he said.
The closure of the borders with neighboring countries, “coupled with an obligatory coronavirus test at each crossing is an extra expense and, at times, a real problem for the families,” he added.
However, despite the obstacles, the faithful continue to participate in daily Mass and to receive Communion as they would normally, said the archbishop, “showing their trust in Divine Providence.”