ASIA/TURKEY - Iskederun and Antioch, faith amid the rubble. The construction of a pastoral center to celebrate the Eucharist is being studied

Friday, 19 May 2023 earthquake   pontifical mission societies   evangelization  

Izmir (Agenzia Fides) - Rubble, interior and exterior wounds, closed roads, sleeping tents instead of houses. This is the reality told by Father Adrian E. Loza, OFM, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) of Turkey, in the light of the recent visit he made to the cities of İskenderun and Antakya, heavily hit by the earthquake on February 6th. In the aftermath of that devastating earthquake, some national directions of the PMS, also following the appeals of Pope Francis, launched extraordinary fundraising campaigns (see Fides, 13/2/2023), keeping the attention on the effects of the earthquake also in the media of their respective countries.
Father Loza recalls those terrible days and remembers the scenes of destruction and death like a nightmare. "Unfortunately, it was only possible to come here now, when much has already been done - the Franciscan priest tells Fides, accompanied on his visit by a catechumen from Izmir, Asil, and welcomed with great warmth by the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, and his collaborators. "In the city of Iskenderun, especially in the neighborhood where the episcopate and the collapsed cathedral are located", explains Father Adrian "the Latin Catholic Church continues to distribute aid to the people, while the list of those in need who benefit from this aid shows no signs of diminishing".
Walking in the streets, we very often see that where there was a building, there are tents where families continue to live next to the rubble of their collapsed houses", he added. "The same is true in parks and public squares. Many streets are still closed and churches as well. Only the Melkite church is standing and usable, while the Syro-Catholic church has only the facade still intact, the other churches are all seriously damaged or collapsed".
The same scenario of destruction is also found in Antakya. Collapsed buildings, full of cracks, closed streets, rubble everywhere. The sound of trucks transporting rubble and jackhammers demolishing buildings is heard throughout the day. "We were afraid of not being able to enter, because that's what they told us. In fact, the city is slowly getting back on track," continues the director of the PMS Turkey. In the city of Antakya, ancient Antioch, the first where the disciples of Jesus were called Christians, Bishop Bizzeti is working to set up a "pastoral center". The churches are uninhabitable "and a solution must be found to allow Christians in the city to meet, celebrate and perhaps even welcome pilgrims" who may return to visit the region in the still undetermined future. (EG) (Agenzia Fides, 19/5/2023)