Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart reports higher number of Christians remaining in Middle East
Amid all the devastating news coming out of Syria in the past week, an archbishop from Aleppo came to the United States with a bit of good news. In the celebrations for Holy Week and Easter, it was clear that Christians were staying in Syria to an extent previously not known.
Before the most recent upsurge in fighting between the government and rebel groups fighting over Aleppo, a cessation of hostilities “allowed us to have very beautiful celebrations for Easter, and we were surprised to see the huge number of faithful coming to church,” Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart said during a press conference Monday at the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Conn. “I celebrated Palm Sunday, and there were about 3,000 people, and we were able to make a procession with a band. During Holy Week, thousands of people came. I celebrated in the largest church in Aleppo. We had several celebrations around the city, which means there are still a lot of people present. We didn’t expect that.”
Archbishop Jeanbart, who heads the Melkite Greek Catholic Archdiocese of Aleppo, in Syria’s north, said church leaders had thought there were far fewer Christians left in the area, after five years of civil war and attacks by Islamic militants. “I think that this day has given comfort and confidence to the pastors and priests, and to the faithful, because we were afraid we were down to 25 percent of the people. I think we are at about half of the Christians still in Aleppo. There are some who went to the border, to Damascus, to Latakia, to Lebanon, and a lot have come back, which has given us hope that future can again be good and that we will have good people working for a new church rising up.”