Catholic leaders in Syria criticize U.S. missile strikes

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ford Williams, U.S. Navy handout via Reuters


(CNS) — Two prominent Catholic leaders in Syria criticized the U.S. missile
strikes against their nation, wondering why they occurred before investigations
into the origins of chemical attacks reported April 4.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Syrian President Bashar Assad “launched a
horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians” and “choked
out the lives of helpless men, women and children.”

child of God should ever suffer such horror,” he said April 6, announcing
that he had ordered the strike against the air base from which he said the
chemical weapons attack was launched.

Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan called the attack an aggression and
told Catholic News Service: “It is a shame that the United States
administration didn’t wait until an honest United Nations investigation was
thoroughly made into what is said to be a chemical air strike in Khan

agglomerate media and the supremacist policy of the USA just want the killing
and destroying conflict in Syria to continue, and this primarily to kill
whatever attempt to resolve the bloody crisis,” added Patriarch Younan,
who was born in Syria and served for 14 years as bishop of the New Jersey-based
Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance for Syriac Catholics in the United States
and Canada.

Georges Khazen, who serves Latin-rite Catholics in Aleppo, told the Rome-based
Fides news agency that he was baffled by “the speed with which it was decided
and carried out, without any adequate investigation into the tragic massacre
with chemical weapons which took place in Idlib province.”

He said the attack “opens new
disturbing scenarios for all.”

The U.S. launched 59 missiles from the USS
Ross and USS Porter in the Mediterranean early April 7 local time. U.S.
officials said they targeted Shayrat Air Base’s airstrips, hangars, control
tower and ammunition areas.

In his
statement, Trump said, “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned
chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons
Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.”

president said it was vital to U.S. security interests “to prevent and
deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” and he called on
other nations “to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in
Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”

of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed
very dramatically,” Trump said. “As a result, the refugee crisis
continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the
United States and its allies.”

“We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the
challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and
for the souls of those who have passed, and we hope that as long as America
stands for justice, that peace and harmony will in the end prevail,” he

Syrian officials called the attack a
“blatant aggression,” and the General Command of the Syrian army said
it “confirms the continuation of the wrong American strategy and restricts
the counterterrorist operation that the Syrian army is conducting.”

The Syrian state news agency SANA reported nine
civilians, including four children, were killed in the U.S. attack. SANA said
the civilians died in villages near the airbase and that seven more people were

It was not clear whether this figure included
any of the six dead announced by the Syrian army earlier.

Patriarch Younan, who said he passed Shayrat
Air Base after the strike, en route to celebrate a funeral in Hafar, noted the
U.S. was accusing Syria — a U.N. member — of using chemical weapons, but had
not investigated the charge.

“The Syrian army was fighting
successfully to end the bloody conflict going on for long. It did not need any
military intervention that would be condemned by international agencies, such as
using chemicals,” he said. He added that Christians would suffer the
consequences, and the final results of displacement and persecution would not
be known for decades.

After the chemical attack was reported, Chaldean
Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo told Fides that although he understood things were not
always what they seemed, he could not imagine the Syrian government “is so
naive and ignorant to be able to do such ‘errors.'”

He said the Syrian government and opposition
continued to blame each other for the 2013 chemical attack in the suburbs of

“Two days ago, U.S. President Donald Trump
said that Assad is part of the solution of the Syrian problem. Now he makes
statements that say the contrary,” Bishop Audo told Fides. “There are
interests of regional powers involved in the war. We should always take this
into account, especially when certain things are repeated with similar
dynamics, and trigger the same reactions and the same effects already
experienced in the past.”

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