Patriarch’s appeal for trapped orphans

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch has appealed to international aid agencies to reach a community of nuns and orphans in their charge trapped in the Syrian village of Maalula.

Most Rev Ignatius Zakka has called for help on behalf of some 40 nuns and children now trapped in worsening conditions in the monastery of St Thekla in the predominantly Christian village to the north east of Damascus.

"The convent is living through painful days because it is in the middle of the zone where fire is being exchanged, which makes getting supplies difficult and dangerous," Patriarch Zakka wrote in a message to agencies.

Over the last number of weeks, Maalula has become the centre of fighting between the Syrian army and rebels. In early September, the Irish Catholic reported on the plight of the village after an army checkpoint near the historic site was stormed by rebels and then contested in air attacks. It was reported at that time that rockets had landed in the village, which is an historic site for Christians in the region. Russia immediately expressed concern at the situation but this appears to have done nothing towards a dangerous stand-off now seriously affecting life in the town.

"The generator has gone out because of the fighting, halting the supply of water to the convent and threatening the lives of those inside," the patriarch stressed in his message.