Young Caritas volunteer killed in shelling of Aleppo, Syria

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A young volunteer for Caritas Syria was killed in continued violence there.

Elias Abiad, 22, who had been volunteering for the church agency since 2014, was hit by mortar shells 13 February in Aleppo, reported Fides, news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Michel Roy, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, said in a statement to Abiad’s family that his death “reminds us of the continuing daily tragedy of Syria and the urgent need of cease-fire and peace.”

Bishop Georges Abou Khazen of Aleppo said continued bombings caused another four people to die and more than 15 people to be injured the same night Abiad died.

“These bombings are carried out by groups called ‘moderate opposition’ and, as such, are defended, protected and armed, but in reality do not differ from other jihadists except for the name,” Fides reported the bishop as saying.

While many people have been fleeing from the armed conflict that has devastated the country the past five years, the Maronite archbishop of Damascus is building new churches in the city as a “gesture of revolt against death and destruction.”

One chapel was inaugurated recently and two more were set to be completed in the coming months, reported Fides 15 February.

The building projects represent a concrete “sign of hope and confidence in the future of the church in Syria” in this “year of mercy and of great suffering,” Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar said in a report to the news agency.

He recalled the 2013 death of a deacon killed near a church by flying shrapnel. The event prompted the archbishop to tell his priests that they had every right to leave the city.

But, he said, they all told him, “You remain, and we will remain, too” and since then, the priests still “cling to their mission under the bombs.”

These priests, he said, represent “the winning card and the guarantee of the future of a martyred Christianity that refuses to die.”

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