Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti with Pope Francis / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2023 / 11:55 am (CNA).

A Vatican archbishop will visit Catholics in Syria and Turkey as they continue to help those affected by the result of multiple devastating earthquakes.

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti is the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches. He travels to Syria and Turkey from Feb. 17-21.

A Feb. 16 press release said Gugerotti undertakes the trip “to express the Holy Father’s closeness to the people severely affected by the recent disastrous earthquake and to meet with bishops, Caritas workers, and other agencies committed to bringing aid to the suffering.”

The trip takes place as Pope Francis continues his appeals for both prayers and concrete aid to the suffering people of Turkey and Syria, reeling from the aftermath of the multiple strong earthquakes on Feb. 6.

Reuters reported that an estimated 42,000 people have been killed and over 100,000 people have been injured in the disaster. Approximately 2.4 million people are displaced from their homes.

Francis received the new ambassador of Turkey to the Holy See, Ufuk Ulutaş, at the Vatican on Feb. 16. During the meeting, the pope also hand-wrote a brief message of encouragement to Turkey.

During the pope's audience with the Ambassador of Turkey, H.E. Ufuk Ulutaş, the Holy Father wrote a message to the Turkish people. Vatican Media
During the pope’s audience with the Ambassador of Turkey, H.E. Ufuk Ulutaş, the Holy Father wrote a message to the Turkish people. Vatican Media

“My thoughts and prayers go to the noble Turkish people at this time of such sorrow,” the note said. “Dear brothers and sisters, I am close to you and I pray [for you]. With fraternal affection, Franciscus.”

Gugerotti’s schedule in Syria and Turkey includes meetings with local Church leaders and Catholic charities.

He will fly into Beirut, Lebanon, and from there transfer by car to Aleppo, Syria, where he will visit places sheltering people left homeless by the earthquakes.

The prefect will celebrate Mass in the Latin Catholic parish and meet the local Catholic and Orthodox bishops, as well as Muslim leaders.

On the morning of Feb. 19, Gugerotti will meet local charities, including Aid to the Church in Need, Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Syria, Jesuit Refugee Service, and Associazione Pro Terra Sancta, among others. He will also visit a mosque providing refuge to victims.

In the evening he will celebrate Divine Liturgy in the Greek-Melkite cathedral.

Gugerotti will travel to Damascus the next day, where he will meet with Catholic and Orthodox bishops and patriarchs before returning to Beirut to take a flight to Istanbul.

On the morning of Feb. 21 he will meet with the Catholic bishops of Turkey and some of the local leaders of Caritas.