Trip of papal delegation to Syria postponed

VATICAN CITY - The visit of a papal delegation to the capital of war-torn Syria, previously announced for late October, has been postponed indefinitely, and the delegation's membership, which was to have included Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, will be changed.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, made the announcement Oct. 23 at the morning session of the world Synod of Bishops.

The statement came exactly one week after the cardinal announced that Pope Benedict XVI had named a delegation of six bishops and a priest to visit Damascus, in the name of the pope and the synod, to express solidarity with the victims of the civil war and encourage peace negotiations.

Syria's civil war has left thousands dead and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people since March 2011.

Cardinal Bertone said that the idea of a papal delegation had received a "positive reception" in Syria and internationally, and that preparations for the visit had continued "notwithstanding the tragic episodes that have taken place in the region in the last few days."

The Oct. 19 assassination of a top Lebanese security official, in a bombing widely blamed on the Syrian government, was followed by fighting in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, which left 11dead.

"Considering the gravity of the situation," the cardinal said the delegation's visit would probably be postponed until after the synod ends Oct. 28. And because of the bishops' other commitments, he said, "there will be some changes to the composition of the delegation."

The cardinal said a previously announced financial contribution from the synod members and the Vatican would be sent to Syria following the synod "as a gesture of fraternal solidarity to the whole population."

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the contribution would go to still-undetermined humanitarian agencies.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970