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Pope again begs peace for “martyred nation” of Syria and Holy Land

RAQA CROSS
Delil Souleiman - AFP
A member of the Syrian Arab-Kurdish forces places a cross in the rubble ahead of a Christmas celebration at the heavily-damaged Armenian Catholic Church of the Martyrs in the city centre of the eastern Syrian city of Raqa on December 26, 2017 following a mine clarence operation at the site a few days earlier.
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"We must pray for these brothers and sisters of ours."

Greeting pilgrims and visitors from Syria, the Holy Land and the Middle East present at today’s general audience, Pope Francis made yet another appeal for peace (leaving his prepared text) for the “martyred nation” of Syria.

“We must pray for these brothers and sisters of ours,” he said, “and for all persecuted Christians.”

The pope’s appeal came just after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre reopened early Wednesday morning. This development came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became personally involved and froze the measures that had infuriated church leaders.

The site had been closed since Sunday.

“We, the heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulchre and the status quo governing the various Christian holy sites in Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custodian of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate – give thanks to God for the statement released earlier today by Prime Minister Netanyahu and offer our gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to uphold the Christian presence in Jerusalem and to defend the status quo,” the leaders of the three denominations in charge of the site said in a statement.

Meanwhile in Syria, it was reported that President Assad’s forces launched a ground assault today on eastern Ghouta. The U.N. Security Council, including Russia, passed a resolution on Saturday calling for a 30-day countrywide ceasefire, but it has not come into effect.

There have been 11 days of bombing of eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, the last major rebel-held area near the capital, in what has been one of the bloodiest conflicts of Syria’s seven-year war.

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