For years, the Franciscan friars in the Middle East, especially in Syria, have ministered to their communities amidst terrible warfare. As the violence continues, the General Minister has asked the friars of Holy Name Province to take part in a global prayer initiative for the people who are suffering as a result of these conflicts.
During his visit to the United States last month, General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, gave Holy Name Province a fragment of a marble stone from one of the churches that were destroyed in Aleppo, Syria. The stone came from a district that once had numerous churches, but because the region has been bombed so frequently, it is no longer possible to determine from which church the marble came.
“The General Minister asks that we use this stone to call to mind the suffering of the people of Syria and all those who suffer in war-torn areas, and to remind us to pray for justice and peace, and to pray for an end to violence,” said Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, who accepted the stone on the Province’s behalf.
The fragment is one of several that the General Minister is distributing to provinces around the world to create a global prayer initiative for victims of war. As part of this initiative, the Provincial Council has decided that each HNP fraternity will host the stone for a certain amount of time over the next year, beginning with the Province’s House of Prayer – Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J. – and continuing with St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J. A schedule will be made available in the near future.
The Order’s General Curia has publicly expressed its support for the friars in Syria throughout the civil war, including when Fr. Michael traveled to visit the friars in Syria earlier this year. Approximately 15 friars were living and working in Syria this April, according to Catholic News Service, including two who were living in territories under ISIS control. Many of the people that the friars were ministering to were made up mostly of the elderly, children, and “those who are too poor or too weak to find another place to go,” said Fr. Michael. “The friars are staying with them and showing their solidarity and suffering the same conditions as the people.”
Updates regarding the Franciscan presence in Syria can be found on the Order’s website.
- “Order Calls for Prayers for Syria, Seeks Missionaries to Regions Around the World” – Jan. 4, 2017, HNP Today
- “Syrian Priest Killed During Raid on Franciscan Monastery” – July 3, 2013, HNP Today