The Catholic Bishop of Aleppo has spoken emotionally about how the Christian faith is still being practised strongly in the war-torn Syrian city, despite endless bombardment and a US strike on Saturday which killed dozens of Syrian soldiers.
Bishop George Khazen told Agenzia Fides that on Sunday, "we celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of Mother Teresa. The church was full, the Bishops and faithful of all the Churches in Aleppo were present."
He added: "As pastors, we are comforted by the sight of so many Christians who live the tremendous moment we are going through in faith. I get emotional when I think that thanks to their faith the Lord will bless us and give us his peace"
The optimistic comments come after US-led coalition air strikes reportedly killed dozens of Syrian soldiers at the weekend, endangering a US-Russian brokered ceasefire and prompting an emergency UN Security Council meeting as tensions between Moscow and Washington escalated.
Bishop Khazen said that the truce "seems to be on the point of failing", adding that "no-one" in Aleppo believed that the US strikes were "a mistake". He said: "Even last night we heard the government aviation raids on [the] area in the hands of rebels. And certainly, no one here believes that the massacre of Syrian soldiers caused by the US bombing on a barrack was a mistake."
The Bishop referred to conspiracy theories about the US having "created" Islamic State. "That air strike, which killed at least ninety soldiers, seems to confirm the ambiguity of the US choices in the Syrian scenario, and even the suspicions of those who say that the United States created the Islamic state and are using it," he said. "With all the tools and weapons at their disposal, that air raid could not have been an accident, since that barracks was not there yesterday".
Meanwhile, a prominent Syriac Catholic church in Aleppo was damaged in a shell attack in violation of the ceasefire.
The Syrian Arab News Agency filmed and reported the attack by the Free Syrian Army in the Al-Aziziyah District of northern Aleppo over the weekend.
The missile appears to have hit the second floor of the church, the Cathedral of Our Lady, which is in a part of the city that has a large Christian population.