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This year’s feast of St. George was a particularly joyful one in the Syrian city of Aleppo, especially for the Melkite Greek Catholic community.

The church is reopening its doors after undergoing restoration due to damage from a February 2023 earthquake. Additionally, Archbishop George Masri of the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo and its environs will celebrate his golden jubilee.

The celebrations took place during the visit of Patriarch Joseph Absi, the current patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, who presided over the Divine Liturgy in the restored church on the evening of April 23. The evening before, there was a procession along Holy Bible Street followed by vespers.

In an exclusive interview with ACI Mena, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner, Father Fadi Najjar, principal of Providence Private School, which is adjacent to and belongs to the church, explained that last year’s earthquake caused cracks in the church walls on both the right and left sides, allowing rainwater to leak inside. The exterior facade was also shattered, with falling stones damaging the stairs.

“The first step was removing the loose stones from above to protect people, especially since the church hall had sheltered the displaced for over a month, providing meals,” Najjar explained. “The restoration then began, taking about a year under Archbishop Masri’s direct supervision. The cracks were sealed, the exterior facade restored, the interior repainted, the stone polished, and new stairs built.”

Regarding Providence School, Najjar said that classroom walls had also cracked while sanitation systems were damaged. “We didn’t just restore the school. Rather, we began a complete renovation, taking advantage of the summer vacation. In five months, the building rose beautifully from the ashes,” he explained.

“New classrooms are being opened, the language lab revived, bathrooms added, as well as a TV/cinema hall, playroom, and aerobics studio. About 150 seats will be restored, walls repainted, floors polished, and stonework whitened — all thanks to funding from the Salla charity. Aid to the Church in Need covered the church’s restoration costs,” he added.

Najjar revealed that Masri strongly supported the school’s renovation, expressing deep appreciation for the contractor, engineer Joseph Nono, who was entrusted with both the church and school projects.

Notably, Absi’s Aleppo visit included stops at the Dar Al-Nahda Music Institute under artist Shady Najjar’s direction and a dinner for men and women named after St. George born between 1960 and 1980. He has also planned a tour of Aleppo’s Old Square.

By Souheil Lawand

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