Open Letter from a Syrian Priest to Pope Francis

Posted on Oct 8, 2019

Image: Father Elias Zahlaoui (Zahlawi)

Father Elias Zahlaoui (Zahlawi)

Forwarded to Al- Bushra by Paul Larudee

Damascus, September 14, 2019

Holy father,

This is the tenth letter I, a simple Catholic priest, allow myself to write to you from Syria on this day of September 14, 2019.

I am addressing it to the representative of Jesus Christ only, not to the President of the Vatican City.

Yes, I am addressing it to you—Pope Francis—as a representative of Him who said openly words the like of which no human has ever uttered; words in which He united, in an absolute and eternal way, between Himself and every human who is suffering injustice, exclusion, and false accusations… every human who is hungry, denigrated, and pained in his heart, and in his body… every human who is torn away from his family, or raped under their gaze…every human who is forced to run away from his country and roam the earth or the seas….

Yes, your Holiness, I am writing to the representative of Jesus, the one who dared and spoke in an absolute clarity and forever, in front of God and man. I am proclaiming this without any reticence, because my country, Syria, has lived and is still living all these pains for eight and a half years, while the whole Western Church has adopted either the silence of sepulchers or false accusations!

Yes! This is exactly what I discovered today, once again, unfortunately, as I was reading and re-reading page 12 of the official Vatican newspaper, the Osservatore Romano, issue dated July 24, 2019, what it said about the mission of Cardinal Peter Taurkson, whom you have charged with delivering your letter, dated June 28, 2019, to our President.

The tone of this letter reminded me closely of the tone of Colin Powell when he met our President, in 2002 and 2003.

I wonder what has happened, and is happening in the depth of the Church of Jesus Christ?

There have been many questions raised about this, and I sum all these up in one, which is this:

In order to atone for the horror of the sin of Anti-Semitism—which the Western Church, first, and the Western society, second, alone are responsible for its establishing, persevering, spreading, and growing excessively until the Nazi Holocaust—should all the Arabs, Christians and Muslims, die in this horrific way, so that the Jews live?

That is the question!

I know it is dangerous in the extreme, but I know also that millions of Arabs and Muslims await an answer which has for long been silence! This is our right because the obvious logic ascertains that a crime is not rectified by another crime that is more horrific.

Holy father,

Are there today, after eight and a half years of an unprecedented universal war on my homeland, Syria, anybody who dares proclaim that he is ignorant that the true perpetrators of it are sitting in their comfortable armchairs in Tel Aviv and Washington, leaving it to their many servants, Europeans, Arabs, and others, and the murderous mercenaries they have brought form the four corners of the earth, to be the despicable executors of this infernal

Despite this, I am not writing to you as a Syrian citizen only, but first and foremost, as a Priest of Jesus Christ who lived and died for the love of every human being.

Holy Father,

Is there anybody, today, who is ignorant of the fact that this war against Syria, and in Syria, which continues disgracefully and in complete coordination with what you call in your letter, “The International Community”, is but one terrorizing facet of a chain of wars, some of which have been carried on for seventy years, while some others have been declared openly by these self-same powers for nothing else but to achieve their absolute domination, once and for ever, over the whole earth at a price, which in their view, is more than a trifle, which is the happiness, dignity, freedom—No! Even the existence of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people!

And all this suffering, are you not supposed to be the first to know of and denounce, as you, in your unique responsibility, are the most able to measure its human-divine dimensions, which in his own person, Jesus Christ, whom you represent, has added to it?

In fact, I haven’t heard you ever, yes, ever, utter the littlest word of blame to those whom you know very well are responsible for these human catastrophes, which will, sooner or later, engulf all humanity.

Yes! Even when you met in Washington, towards the end of September of 2015, Obama, and then the Congress, then the Bishops of the United States, then the General Council of the United Nations. Can it truly be that you had nothing to say, not yesterday, nor today, about these massive sufferings, which are lived today by the greater majority of Jesus’s brothers and sisters on earth? What is it that made you forget the courageous and decisive conclusions that you reached in your First Encyclical, “the Joy of the Gospel”, in 2013?

Holy Father,

What are you waiting for in order to adopt, in your turn, today more than any other time, Jesus’s brilliant words in the face of those who have, in arrogance and foolishness, appointed themselves gods on earth?

Let me tell you openly, what very few would dare even whisper it: You are Jesus’s representative only! I cannot see in you, in any way, the President of a country in the service of the miserable “grand” people of the world. Is it not time for the liberation of the whole Church, and forever, from the eternal and catastrophic mirages which have stuck to its history, since the era of Emperor Constantine?

Why don’t you, in your turn, walk the road that your predecessor, St John Paul II walked?

Holy Father,

Because I am a Priest, and I only see in you the representative of my Lord, Jesus, I reiterate to you my hope and respect.

Fr Elias Zahlaoui
Damascus, September 14, 2019