ALEPPO, Syria (A.W.) — Terrorists on Jan. 9 reportedly bombed the Armenian Catholic Cathedral Our Lady of Pity (also known as St. Rita), located next to the Armenian Catholic Archeparchy of Aleppo, leaving the church partly destroyed. No casualties were reported.
Bishop Mikael Mouradian, Armenian Catholic Eparch of the U.S. and Canada, spoke with Aleppo-based Rev. Fr. Krikor Milad, who recounted how the bombing took place at around 5:30 a.m., while everyone slept. The Eparchy windows and doors blew open, as dust rushed in. Father Milad, who stays in the Eparchy building, sprung out of bed and rushed to the church next door to make sure there was no fire. Although part of the dome had collapsed, there were no casualties.
“If the bombing had taken place just two hours later, the church would have been full of worshippers,” Bishop Mouradian told the Armenian Weekly, noting that a special Mass was going to be held that day at 7 a.m. for Saint Rita, with the participation of the Confraternity of the Church. “God saved them,” he said.
According to an unconfirmed report, the perpetrators are allegedly militants from the Islamic Front’s (Jabhat al-Islamiyya) militia “Harakat ‘Ahrar Al-Sham” (Liberators of the Levant Movement), who fired mortar shells at the cathedral.
Bishop Mouradian noted that this was not the first time that Catholic Church structures have come under attack. The Eparchy and the school had been hit in recent months.
The Cathedral Our Lady of Pity, which is located on Tillel Street, was inaugurated in 1840. The church was restored in 1990. The cathedral’s altar is dedicated to Saint Rita.
The Jan. 9 attack comes four months after the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Church of Der Zor was destroyed by what was believed to be an act by the Islamic State (IS), though that has not been confirmed.
Around 17,000 Catholic Armenians belonged to the Eparchy of Aleppo as of 2008, according to figures provided by the Armenian Catholic Church Patriarchate. However, since the start of the Syrian conflict, many Armenians have left the country.
The Catholic Armenian community of Aleppo dates back to the early 1700’s, when the first official Armenian Catholic Prelate, the Aintab-born Bishop Abraham Ardzivian, was consecrated as bishop, and then ordained Prelate of Aleppo by Patriarch Ghougas of Sis in the Forty Martyrs Church of Aleppo in 1710. He would later succeed Patriarch Ghougas as Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia.
Before the Syrian conflict, the Aleppo Eparchy oversaw nearly 20 churches, seminaries, and convents, as well as 5 schools. It was comprised of six parishes: the Cathedral Our Lady of Pity on Tillel Street in Aleppo; the St. Barbara Church in the Souleymanie neighborhood of Aleppo; the St. Trinity Church in the Midan neighborhood of Aleppo; the Holy Cross Church in the Ourouba neighborhood of Aleppo; the Annunciation Church in Djebel; and the Holy Martyrs Church of Rakka City.
“We pray that the war ends, and that peace returns to people’s lives. War does not solve any problems. Dialogue does,” said Bishop Mouradian.