ALEPPO, Syria — Still reeling from the Syrian civil war, the city of Aleppo saw a ray of hope this weekend with a consecration to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13.
The Mass of consecration took place in St. Francis of Assisi Roman Rite Cathedral, which is also known as the Latin Church of the Franciscans. It was presided over by the pastor, Father Ibrahim Alsabagh, and concelebrated by the bishops and priests of the city.
The consecration of Aleppo took place on the 100th anniversary of the first Marian apparition at Fatima, the same day that Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of canonization of the shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta Marto at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal.
Present at the Mass, according to the Facebook page for the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, was a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that was sent directly from the shrine in Portugal.
After the Eucharistic celebration, the statue was carried in procession through the Christian al-Azizieh neighborhood, which has suffered numerous attacks in recent years.
On their Facebook account, the “S.O.S Christians in Syria” group said that the church was full of the faithful and that a number of them were joyful and were moved to tears because, for many years, a procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima had not been held.
“Let us give thanks to God for this heavenly day that was ours to experience, and let us entrust the Christians of Aleppo to our Blessed Mother. May she, the Queen of Peace, since she gave to the world the Prince of Peace, grant to us the much-longed-for peace in the Middle East and the entire world,” the group said.
The consecration of Aleppo was part of a program of activities organized by the Latin Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi on the occasion of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.
The cathedral stated on its Facebook page that the celebrations began on May 11 with a community prayer and a procession with the statue of the Virgin sent from Fatima: “Many of us cried because, after six years, we’re able to again organize the procession through the streets of Aleppo without the fear of missiles. With emotion, we welcome the Virgin of Fatima to Aleppo and with the hope that the Virgin Mary will pray for peace for all of Syria.”
On Oct. 13, 2016, at the close of icu;the last international pilgrimage of the year at the Fatima Shrine, Bishop Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima blessed a statue that would be sent to the “martyr diocese” of Aleppo.
Currently, living conditions in the city are still very difficult because there is a shortage of food, medicine and other supplies, and electric and water services have not yet been restored.