Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a despot whose shooting and shelling of his own people cannot be defended, yet he may be the last line of defence for Syria’s Catholics.

For that reason, Syrian Church leaders are taking a cautious approach to the nearly year-long rebellion to topple Assad. They have been pleading for calm, for dialogue and for Western assistance to find a peaceful solution to Syria’s popular uprising as the nation moves ever closer to all-out civil war. So far, the dispute is political, but churchmen fear the fighting may quickly turn religious.

Published in Editorial

TORONTO - While Syrians endure shelling and sniper fire from their government, Iraqi refugees among them are hunkered down in the Sayyida Zainab neighbourhood of Damascus hoping they can get out before things get much worse.

“If you stay away from any mass demonstrations, stay away from any political activity, if you stay in your neighbourhood, in your church where the Iraqi refugees are, nobody will target you,” is the advice the Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) is giving hundreds of Iraqi refugees that Toronto parishes and religious communities have sponsored to come to Canada.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

VATICAN CITY - As a sectarian conflict in Syria intensified, Pope Benedict XVI called on all Syrians to begin a process of dialogue and reminded the government of its duty to recognize its citizens' legitimate demands.

In Beirut, the patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church warned against toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling for dialogue to solve the crisis in the country.

Published in International

WASHINGTON - Some priests have decided to stay in battle-scarred Homs, Syria, even as government forces intensified their strikes against the heart of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, said the Vatican's nuncio to Syria.

Archbishop Mario Zenari told Catholic News Service in an email Feb. 9 that he had been in almost daily contact with priests in Homs and that "with respect to their safety, the situation is, in certain respects, uncertain."

Published in International