Vatican aid chief and possible papal candidate visits with Syrian refugees in Jordan

( The head of the Vatican’s international humanitarian aid organization, Cardinal Robert Sarah, traveled to Jordan this week to discuss relief options for Syrian-Christian refugees in Jordan. 

Cardinal Sarah, 67, a possible successor to Pope Benedict, is the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which organizes Catholic relief worldwide, the Associated Press reported.

Cardinal Sarah met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to discuss humanitarian aid for the Syrian refugees as part of a conference in Jordan and also visited the estimated 368,000 Syrian refugees being sheltered there.

Syrian Christians form about 5 percent of the country’s 23 million people and have attempted to remain neutral in the nearly two-year old civil war. Nevertheless, they have been caught in the crossfire between rebel forces—which are increasingly being influenced by Islamic radicals—and the government, forcing tens of thousands to flee their ancient homeland.

A Syrian Christian priest, Father Gabriel Akyuz, described the threats Christians are facing in an interview with the New York Times last week.

“The gangs are kidnapping people and holding them to ransom. They are perpetrating great injustices. That is why Syriacs [a sect of Syrian Christians] are fleeing,” he said.

As a result of the violence against them, many Christian refugees want to leave the Middle East altogether, requesting visas from their Christian brethren in the West. Cardinal Sarah, however, believes that Christians should attempt to remain in the region, if possible.

“The Church does not support emigration of Syrian Christians,” Sarah told AFP after visiting Syrian refugees in Jordan’s northern city of Zarqa.

“But in certain situations and if Christian families lost everything, including hope to live in their own country, no one can stop them from seeking a new life in another country.”

Posted on February 21, 2013 .