Crowds have lined up for Easter celebrations across Syria. Festive processions, involving priests, worshippers and scouts, marched through the streets in Aleppo, Latakia and Damascus, marking the Palm Sunday.
As Catholics around the world celebrated one of the most significant Christian holidays on April 1, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus, thousands in the war-ravaged Syria, including in the capital Damascus and liberated Aleppo swarmed the streets.
People filled the square in front of the Holy Cross Church in Damascus, the seat of the Greek (Melkite) Catholic Church. Ahead of the festivities, which also saw uniformed Scouts of Syria parading through the city center, the cathedral was visited by Asma al-Assad, the country’s first lady.
Aleppo, which was liberated in December 2016 by the Syrian Army backed by the Russian military, has been gradually returning to normal life. Back then, the city was lying in ruins, with piles of rubble and crumbling facades shaping the city’s eerie landscape. More than a year since the fierce battle for its liberation ended, people have been flooding the streets in massive Easter celebrations.
Preceded by scout drummers, worshippers were seen marching in sunny weather.
Earlier, hundreds of Syrians joined a Good Friday mass at the Saint Francis Cathedral.
The cathedral was targeted in a missile strike in November 2015, when it was packed with 400 worshippers attending the Sunday mass. The missile was said to have been launched from a part of old Aleppo, which was controlled by rebels. Fortunately, no casualties were reported, with priests saying that it was “Virgin’s Mary mantle that protected us.”
Pictures from Latakia, a port city on the Mediterranean, showed worshippers encircling a Catholic church as they geared up for Easter Sunday service.
Latakia province hosts Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base, which has played a key role in the Russian air campaign in support of the Syrian forces battling Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) and Al-Qaeda affiliates.
Easter celebrations on a smaller scale were held in the city of Tartus, the site of Russia’s naval facility in Syria, in Homs countryside, as well as in other towns and villages across the country.
Syria was given a special mention by Pope Francis during his ‘To the City and the World’ address on Sunday. Addressing some 80,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Francis rallied for a swift reconciliation in Syria.
“Today we implore fruits of peace upon the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria,” he said.