(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent an official delegate from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development to Aleppo in Syria.
Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, the Pope’s delegate, visited the war-ravaged city on the 18-23 January, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, and Msgr. Thomas Habib, Counselor to the Nunciature.
A statement released on Tuesday by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development said this was the first official visit by representatives of the Holy See after the end of hostilities in Aleppo.
“The delegation was able to meet the Christian communities and their pastors, who expressed their gratitude to the Pope for his constant attention to beloved Syria. In addition, he visited Catholic charitable institutions and a number of refugee camps. In particular, a centre for humanitarian assistance managed by Caritas Aleppo in the Hanano neighbourhood was inaugurated.”
The Vatican delegation also participated in an ecumenical prayer service organized for the week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Another moment of encounter occurred when the delegation met with representatives of Islam, during which “the responsibility of religions to educate for peace and reconciliation was underlined”.
Local civil and religious authorities “paid homage to the delegation, expressing particular gratitude for the Holy Father’s gesture in elevating to the dignity of cardinal the Papal Representative to the country [Cardinal Zenari], and acknowledging in this the Pope’s special closeness to the afflicted Syrian population”.
The statement goes on to detail the importance of the encounters with Catholic charities in the country.
"Finally, the meetings with Catholic charitable entities highlighted the importance of the assistance they provide for the benefit of all the Syrian population. With the support of the universal Church and thanks to the generous contribution of the international community, such aid can be intensified in the future to face the growing needs of the people."
In conclusion, the statement detailed the items currently most needed, which include “food, clothing, education, healthcare, and housing”.