'Russian operation in Syria is our salvation' – top Syrian Catholic bishop to RT
"We see Russia's military operation as a real effort to fight terrorism. What is especially important is that this military campaign goes in parallel with promotion of peace process," Most Reverend Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo for the Latins who was appointed by Pope Francis in 2013, told RT in a telephone interview. "We really hope that the peace process will soon prevail over fighting all across Syria," the bishop added.
"The majority of Syrian people" of all backgrounds and faith "regard Russian military campaign as salvation, a way out of the state we've been enduring for five years," the Catholic bishop said, adding that "Syrians are very positive about it."
"Russia's actions are not limited to the military operation. Russia makes a very positive impact by stimulating the negotiations process, and promotes dialogue between various Syrian groups," Bisoph Abou Khazen said.
Syrian minorities have been especially suffering from the conflict, the bishop told RT. Noting that there are over 20 religious and ethnic groups in the Syrian society, the Aleppo vicar said that before the conflict they've all lived in harmony. "Our pre-war society was like a beautiful multicolored mosaic. But unfortunately, it has been destroyed," he said.
Describing the harsh conditions that his congregation and other Syrians have been living in, the vicar said that there is no electricity in Aleppo and water supplies have been disrupted. "The lack of water is what has really made our lives harder," he said, adding that people have been living without water supplies for over a month now.
Many families have fled the violence and the conditions caused by constant fighting, Bishop Abou Khazen told RT, but added: "In light of recent military advances in the Aleppo region, we hope that tension will ease and situation in the city will improve."
Last week, leaders of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, Vatican's Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia have held a historic meeting in Havana, Cuba. After the first ever face-to-face talks, a joint declaration has been signed, in which a special attention is given to the situation in the Middle East.
Saying that challenges of the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries in the region with "the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated," require "a shared response," the religious leaders called upon the international community "to act urgently."
"We wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence," the joint declaration said, with Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill urging global leaders "to seek an end" to the violence in Syria and Iraq.