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Christmas message from Caritas Internationalis President, + Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

At times it seems it is always winter, never Christmas in Syria.

For half a decade the people have suffered from the cruel winds of war. Millions are without homes. Even those with shelter have no heating or electricity. Our own Caritas staff burn their furniture to stay warm. Those schools still open can’t afford fuel – the children are wrapped up in heavy blankets as they sit at their desks.

Yusra, mother of four children under 6, told us about fleeing her home by foot to Damascus. They were too tired eventually to carry their luggage so they left it on the side of the road. Every mile is two in winter. Now they have nothing.

We think of the poor, the elderly and the children huddled 10 to room. Of those living out in the open… Of those under constant bombardment…Of those on the road, fleeing their homes for safety.

Money we received at Caritas Internationalis was used to give vouchers to 500 children in Damascus for warm clothes and shoes. It is part of the help we provide that includes healthcare, education, shelter and counselling.

Millions are without homes, heating or electricity in Syria this winter.

Millions are without homes, heating or electricity in Syria this winter. Caritas gives voucher to families so they can buy warm clothes and shoes. Photo by CLMC/Caritas

Majida, mother of four, said, “You can’t imagine the happiness that I felt when Caritas called me and said that they will offer my kids clothes for winter. They relieved me from a heavy burden. The prices of clothes are unaffordable. Having new clothes became a dream for my kids. They really need this aid to be able to go to school every day and to stay a little bit warm in our cold apartment during winter.”

None of our work in Syria would be possible without the commitment of our colleagues living side by side with the people. “In the midst of so much devastation, it is truly heroic that men and women have remained there in order to offer material and spiritual assistance,” said Pope Francis. “Every one of them is in our hearts and prayers.”

Fatimah,6, and her new shoes, bought with Caritas voucher.

Fatimah,6, and her new shoes, bought with Caritas voucher. Photo by Caritas Syria

This war has been the bleakest winter for Syria, but we know that after winter comes spring. With your support, Caritas around the world has been working towards peace in Syria. Pope Francis is one of the supporters of our Syria: Peace is Possible Campaign. “Let us implore the grace of heartfelt conversion for those responsible for the fate of that region,” he said.

A dove in the winter air is a white perfection – peace in Syria would be perfection this Christmas.

A joyous and blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones.

+ Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

Caritas Internationalis President