Currents News Staff
Originally created by an Orthodox priest, a religious icon blessed by Pope Francis is making its way through every diocese in Syria to return hope to Catholic and Orthodox communities.
“We call this Icon ‘Our Lady of Syria of Sorrows’ consoling the Syrian people. I chose to give it to Pope Francis and he invited me to Vatican and I met him. He hosted me, in the Vatican and invited me to lunch and we spoke a lot about the situation in Syria. It was incredible,” said the icon’s painter Spiridon Kabbash.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the International President for Aid to the Church in Need, said, “When he saw the icon, he noticed that Our Lady’s face expressed both sorrow and consolation. He saw the tenderness with which the Blessed Mother looks at her people.”
The bottom part of the icon is divided in two. On one side are the Syrian people seeking comfort. On the other side are the persecutors. They are the extremists who caused the martyrdom of the now-saints, depicted on the top part of the icon. Among them are Deacon Fahed Issa Al-Naimi and Frans van der Lught, a Dutch Jesuit who was shot to death five years ago.
“We decided to organize a liturgical celebration for the martyrs and the kidnapped people. We will and pray in all the Orthodox and Catholic churches for unity and peace in Syria,” said Kabbash.
Piacenza added, “There is not a single family that has not suffered the death of a loved one. These tears must be wiped away. The pope is very sensitive to this fact, to the need to wipe away the tears of those who suffer.”
The arrival of the icon in Damascus in the hands of nuncio, Mario Zenari, was widely celebrated. The hope is that its presence will represent a hug from the world, a symbol of unity amid tribulation.
This initiative is part of Aid to the Church in Need’s project, “Console My People.” The goal is to support Christians in Syria. For eight years they have lived in an interminable war that has robbed them of everything, including their loved ones.