(CNSNews.com) – Were the Obama administration to launch an attack on Syria, as President Obama has said he intends to do, it would be “a criminal act, which will only reap more victims,” said Gregory III, the leader of the Greek Catholic Church in Syria and Lebanon.
“We must listen to the Pope’s appeal for peace in Syria,” said Patriarch Gregory III. “If Western countries want to create true democracy then they must build it on reconciliation, through dialogue between Christians and Muslims, not with weapons. This attack being planned by the United States is a criminal act, which will only reap more victims, in addition to the tens of thousands of these two years of war. This will destroy the Arab world’s trust in the West.”
“What or who have led Syria to this thin red line, this point of no return?” said Patriarch Gregory in remarks first reported by AsiaNews.it on Aug. 28. “Who created this hell in which our people have been living for months? Every day, Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill and not one country has done anything to stop them, even the U.S. has decided to send in more weapons.”
In a statement on Aug. 30, Patriarch Gregory III further said, “We renew our rejection of any foreign military intervention in the Syrian crisis.”
“I am adding my voice to all the statements made by most of my brother Eastern Patriarchs, several Episcopal Conferences, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and especially His Holiness Pope Francis and his representative at the United Nations in Geneva, when I state the categorical rejection by Syria’s Catholic Churches, including the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, in Arab countries and those of the expansion, of any foreign intervention in Syria and any attack or intervention of any sort whatsoever,” said Patriarch Gregory III. “Furthermore, we join the many countries, comprising over half the world’s population, who reject any outside military intervention in Syria.”
The patriarch also condemned the influx of weapons and money from Western and Eastern countries. “[F] for the last two and a half years, Eastern and Western countries have not stopped sending weapons, money, military experts, secret service agents and Salafist fundamentalist armed gangs of thugs and criminals, who have fallen on Syria like a destructive new flood, far more dangerous even than destructive chemical weapons, whose use on our Syrian soil we reject on any pretext whatever,” said Gregory III.
“Those above mentioned factors have caused the death of 100,000 victims, the forced displacement of eight million Syrians, the traumatisation of 2 million children, the destruction of the academic future of millions of school-children and students and the destruction of thousands of villages,” he said, “not to mention the wrecking of both infrastructure and institutions, widespread chaos, the abduction of thousands of people (men, women and children), rape, extortion of ransom, robberies, assaults on civilians, hatred, enmity, revenge, exacerbation of ethnic and religious conflicts, and that among members of the same country, or sometimes of the same family.”
On Aug. 27, Patriarch Gregory III said that armed intervention in Syria was “fueling hatred, fueling criminality, fueling inhumanity, fueling fundamentalism, terrorism – all these things are the fruit of intervention. Enough! Surely, it will spread like a world war.”
“Our community dwindles every day,” he said. “Young people are fleeing, families leave their homes and villages. The disappearance of the Christians is a danger not only for Syria but for all of Europe.”
The Melkite Catholic Church is part of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church, which is in full communion with the Holy See in Rome and Pope Francis. Its headquarters are in Damascus, Syria, and it has approximately 1.6 million members in Syria and Lebanon, and in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Sudan.
Gregory III was installed as patriarch of Antioch, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, in December 2000.