Aleppo: the testimony of Br. Bahjat Karakach | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Aleppo: the testimony of Br. Bahjat Karakach

The invitation of the Custos to support the local population

Message from the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton

Dearest brothers of the Custody,

May the Lord grant you peace.

As all of you already know, a terrible earthquake hit Turkey and Syria in the early hours of Tuesday 6 February, sowing destruction and death.
In Syria, it is the north-western regions  in particular that have been hit, where we are also present: the communities of the Valley of the Orontes, Aleppo and Lattakia.

I have been able to contact the Delegate Fr. Bahjat to find out what the situation is like, and also the friars of the other communities through WhatsApp. Thanks to God, the friars are all well, but there is enormous damage both in the villages of Knaye and Yakoubie, and in Aleppo and Lattakia. Our brothers are doing extraordinary work to take people into our more solid facilities: in Aleppo alone we are taking in and helping more than 2500 people.

As the Custody, we will always do whatever possible to support this mission and to help the local population. We have already started raising funds through the Pro Terra Sancta association and donations can also be sent to the Custody’s Bursar, with the cause “Help for Earthquake Victims.”

We will keep you updated on the situation as it develops, while we want to share with you the testimony of the Delegate for Syria, Fr. Bahjat, Guardian and Parish Priest of Aleppo.
Let us pray for all those who have been affected by the earthquake and let us all take action to raise awareness on this new suffering that has struck our brothers after 12 years of war.

May the Lord bless you,

Francesco Patton ofm
Custos of the Holy Land

Testimony of Fr. Bahjat, Delegate for Syria, Guardian and Parish Priest of Aleppo

In early 2023, new chapters of suffering and fear have opened in the lives of the inhabitants of Aleppo. At 4.17 in the morning of Monday 6 February, our city was hit by a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale, which sent people rushing into the streets in the rain, dark and cold of the night, made worse by the lack of electric power. Some parents with their children, who left their homes panic-stricken, did not even have time to put their shoes on.

As a result, we announced that we would take people into our church and shelter them from the cold and the rain, and many churches did this. Afterwards, the bad news began and we heard of residential buildings that were collapsing on top of their inhabitants, Because of this we have lost a Greek Catholic priest who died under the rubble. Abut fifty buildings are said to have collapsed, with about 600 fatalities, more than 1,500 casualties and countless missing people. All these figures are obviously doomed to rise.

Our church has not been immune from damage because the two bell towers have lost a lot of material, with the debris filling the street and the courtyard. We are also facing the risk that the buildings opposite the church collapse because of the cracks in them and this presages great dangers that we will have to face in the future. The parish halls are full of hundreds of people at the moment.  We have three convents in the city and all three are taking in the homeless to the best of their capacities.

In our parish convent in the city centre, we have about 500 people and there are about 2000 in the Terra Sancta College, in the outskirts, as it has outdoor space, while the branch church is holding about fifty people. We are serving three meals a day. Nobody wants to go home, because they are afraid of stronger tremors and because of the dangerous situation in many homes.

As the temperatures are continuing to drop below zero, we are also ensuring that the place is kept warm for the children
All the meals that are served are cooked by our charity kitchen in our project “Five loaves and two fish”, and the biggest problem we have to face is the difficulty of obtaining supplies to make the food because of the sanctions imposed on Syria; while we see the flow of aid to our suffering neighbour Turkey, we see that Syria is virtually prevented from receiving support or help.

On the other hand, to deal with the crisis, the apostolicnuncio, Card. Mario Zenari, has come to Aleppo and called an emergency meeting of the bishops to find the best way to bring help to the people.

Aleppo is acity that has been severely hit, but on the other hand, all the love and solidarity we have received  has been sufficient to help us overcome some difficulties and bring comfort to our hearts…
It is a sign of the love and care of God.

Thank you all and let us pray together for all the families in mourning who have lost dear ones or who have lost their homes, so that the Lord may fill their hearts with patience and consolation.

Reason: help for earthquake victims


Bank reference: Help for Earthquake Victims

USD Account Euro Account




Account No.: 395000

Swift code: PALSPS22

Intermediary bank:



IBAN: PS42PALS045003950000013000000




Account No.: 395000

Swift code: PALSPS22

Intermediary bank:



IBAN: PS47PALS045003950000333000000