A brief letter on the terrible earthquake that occurred this morning in Turkey and Syria.
It includes the text of the telegram of Pope Francis to each country, and a report from a priest in Aleppo, Syria, Father Bahjat Elia Karakach, a Franciscan friar of the Custody of the Holy Land and a Latin-rite parish priest in Aleppo, and Father Hanna Jallouf, parish priest of Knaye, one of the three Christian villages in the Orontes Valley of Syria.
We pray especially for all families, and especially for the mothers and fathers who mourn their children, and children who mourn their parents, and brothers and sisters who mourn parents and brothers and sisters and friends, in the hundreds of stone houses which have collapsed.
May all who mourn be comforted. —RM
Special note: I will speak with Fr. Charles Murr tomorrow, Tuesday, February 7, at 11 a.m. (Eastern time in the United States), 5 p.m. Rome time. Go to this link (link) to follow the conversation live on February 7. The conversation is open to all.
(Note: If you wish to support these letters, and such video conversations, click here.)
Telegrams of the Holy Father, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, for the victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, 06.02.2023 (link)
The Most Reverend
Apostolic Nuncio in Türkiye
His Holiness Pope Francis Was Deeply Saddened to Learn of the Huge Loss of Life Caused by the Earthquake in the Area of South-eastern Türkiye, and He Sends the Assurance of His Spiritual Closeness to All Those Affected. Entrusting Those Who Have Died to the Loving Mercy of the Almighty, He Sends Heartfelt Condolences to Those Who Mourn Their Loss. His Holiness Likewise Prays That the Emergency Personnel Will Be Sustained in Their Care of the Injured and in the Ongoing Relief Efforts by the Divine Gifts of Fortitude and Perseverance.
+ Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State
Cardinal Mario Zenari
Apostolic Nuncio in Syria
Deeply Saddened by the Significant Loss of Life Caused by the Earthquake in the Area of North-western Syria, His Holiness Pope Francis Offers Heartfelt Prayers for the Souls of the Deceased and for All Who Mourn Them. Entrusting Those Affected by This Disaster to the Providence of the Almighty, He Prays in Particular for the Emergency Personnel Involved in the Ongoing Relief Efforts. As a Renewed Sign of His Spiritual Solidarity, His Holiness Invokes Upon the Long-suffering Syrian People the Divine Blessings of Strength and Peace.
+Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State
Here is a report from SIR, the news service of the Italian bishops:
Earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Fr. Bahjat (Aleppo parish priest): “A huge tragedy, do not abandon us” (link)
February 6, 2023
An earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, struck southern Turkey and central and north-western Syria this morning at 4:17 local time (2:17 in Italy). Enormous damage is being recorded everywhere in the affected areas, the provisional toll speaks of hundreds of dead and injured in the two countries. The first testimonies from Syria
An earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, struck southern Turkey and central and north-western Syria this morning at 4.17 local time (2.17 in Italy). Enormous damage is being recorded everywhere in the affected areas, the provisional toll speaks of hundreds of dead and injured in the two countries.
The Turkish vice president, Fuat Oktay, has provided a provisional balance that speaks of 1,710 buildings collapsed in ten provinces of southeastern Anatolia, with Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras the most affected.
The dead are said to be at least 284 dead and 2,232 wounded. In Syria the dead are said to be at least 560 and 600 wounded, most of them in Hama, Aleppo and Latakia, but the toll remains provisional and the numbers overlap by the hour.
The Syrian government agency Sana has released the news that Syrian President Bashar al Assad has convened an emergency meeting in Damascus this morning to coordinate relief efforts.
First aid is also made difficult by the bad weather that afflicts the areas affected by the earthquake.
The testimonials. “There is rubble everywhere. The first reports we have here speak of at least 36 completely destroyed buildings with people left under the rubble. The Latin parish where I am also suffered damage but at the moment we do not register any other critical issues.”
This is the testimony given to SIR by Father Bahjat Elia Karakach, friar of the Custody of the Holy Land and Latin parish priest of Aleppo, with the first moments immediately after the 4.17 earthquake.
“The shock was tremendous,” says the parish priest in a strained voice. “People took to the streets in panic, at least those who managed to do so, many, as I said, were trapped. It’s raining and cold here, I’ve seen people barefoot and lightly dressed, in pajamas, fleeing in search of a safe place. In the parish we have opened undamaged premises and offered hot drinks and something to eat. We also prayed to ask for God’s protection. Now with the first light of dawn the displaced people are returning to their homes to assess the damage, there is no electricity, a dramatic situation. We wait for help to arrive everywhere.”
Deaths and destruction also in the Idlib area, not controlled by the Assad regime. The situation was told to SIR by Father Hanna Jallouf, parish priest of Knaye, one of the three Christian villages in the Orontes Valley, together with those of Yacoubieh and Gidaideh.
Father Jallouf is still in Damascus but has gathered the testimony of his confrere, Father Louai Sbai, remained in Knaye, only 50 km away. from Idlib: “In the northern villages, in the Idlib area there is a lot of damage, deaths and injuries,” were the words of Father Sbai reported by Father Hanna. “Our communities appear to be safe, we only complain of structural damage. First aid is being provided but the population is trying to see the state of the homes and take away what is possible. Taking stock is now difficult if not impossible due to the high level of destruction.”
The appeal. “We trust in international help, we are all in shock at what happened. The war was not enough, poverty was not enough, now the earthquake,” declares Father Bahjat who launches an appeal to the international community: “Remove or suspend the sanctions on Syria at least to allow and facilitate the arrival and movement of the humanitarian aid we have badly needed. Many people were starting to repair their houses destroyed by the war, now they are back on the ground, they can only collect rubble. A huge tragedy, do not abandon the Syrian people.”
[End, SIR report on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria]