Fr. Hanna Jallouf during an audience with Pope Francis (file photo) Fr. Hanna Jallouf during an audience with Pope Francis (file photo) 

Syria's new Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo: ‘Peace is my priority’

Father Hanna Jallouf, the newly appointed Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo, expresses his commitment to peace and reconciliation in war-torn Syria, while prioritizing the spiritual well-being of the faithful.

By Federico Piana

Hailing from a challenging area in northern Syria, Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, has expressed his surprise and humility at being chosen as the new Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo.

“I am an insignificant parish priest from a difficult area in northern Syria, and I never thought the Holy Father would choose me for this important task.”

For the past 22 years, he has led the parish of Knayeh in Idlib province, and now he is entrusted with the care of all Latin-rite Catholics in Syria.

Fr. Jallouf seeks to approach his new mission with joy. “The mission to which I dedicate myself joyfully is to sustain a war-torn community, still reeling from the destruction caused by the devastating earthquake in February.”

The trauma of his own kidnapping in 2014 by Al-Nusra militants remains etched in his memory.

Tensions among the faithful

As he embarks on his pastoral duties, Fr. Jallouf identifies peacemaking as an immediate priority.

The faithful are divided, aligning themselves with either the government or armed rebel groups, whose ongoing conflicts perpetuate death and devastation.

Fr. Jallouf sees it as crucial to reconcile these opposing factions and bring about a sense of unity in a climate still rife with hatred.

Highlighting the dire situation in Idlib, Father Jallouf emphasizes the urgent need for peace.

This region, characterized by intense conflict, has witnessed a dramatic decline in the Christian population, “plummeting from 10,000 to a mere 600.”

Even priests have been forced to flee, leaving only the Latin-rite Franciscans to provide assistance.

Listening together and avoiding politics

The Church, affirms Fr. Jallouf, can contribute to pacifying the country by abstaining from political involvement.

“We should not enter into political issues but rather focus instead on the social and daily lives of our people. We can achieve good things when we don’t get bogged down in politics.”

He recalls the positive impact achieved in Idlib during the darkest years of the war, demonstrating the to bring about positive change.

In addition to his commitment to fostering peace, Fr. Jallouf aims to assess the spiritual well-being of religious communities, priests, and the faithful.

By listening attentively to their needs and desires, he hopes to guide them on their spiritual journeys effectively.

Fr. Jallouf concludes by emphasizing that his endeavors are driven by a desire to glorify God and serve the Church, ensuring that his mission as the new Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo contributes to the well-being of all those under his care.

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08 July 2023, 10:57