The rockets and bombs in Syria hit houses, streets, and hospitals, Riad Sargi said. They hit Christians and non-Christians alike.

One landed within 20 meters of his home in Damascus last week, he said. The impact was terrible. One of his two little sons – twins Michael and Elias, turning 5 this weekend – was very afraid, and he and his wife, Rouba, are afraid of sending the boys and their 14-year-old sister Leila to school because the bombs hit them, too.

“Each day we pray for our God – the God of mercy, love, the God of peace – to protect us, to protect our families,” Sargi said.

And that’s what he wants to ask Pope Francis, too, when he has the opportunity to meet him this weekend in Philadelphia.

The Sargi family from Damascus, Syria, will meet Pope Francis Sunday at Mass in Philadelphia. (Emily McFarlan Miller for Crux)
The Sargi family from Damascus, Syria, will meet Pope Francis Sunday at Mass in Philadelphia. (Emily McFarlan Miller for Crux)

The Sargi family is one of six families from around the world that will meet Francis at the Mass he is scheduled to celebrate at 4 p.m. Sunday on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. In addition to Syria, those families, chosen by their archdioceses, come from Australia, Congo-Kishasa, Cuba, France, and Vietnam, according to the Pontifical Council for the Family.

The pope will give each family a copy of the Gospel of Luke in their language, each with his signature, according to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family. They also will receive at least 100,000 copies of Luke – the Gospel of the Year of Mercy starting in December – to take with them to distribute in their countries, Paglia said.

“We want to show that families are not turned in on themselves. The dream is to go ahead and reach all continents,” he said.

The council also thought it was necessary not only to send the Gospel to care for families’ hearts, the archbishop said, but also to care for the physical needs of families in Syria. That’s because, he said, “We can’t forget their situation.”

Paglia announced a global initiative Friday to provide heating for 6,000 Syrian families this winter, a partnership with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Donations to the initiative by the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association can be made starting Monday online at It is seeking $2 million in donations from around the world, which will be distributed by the Church in Syria to purchase that heating for the families that need it most, Catholic Near East Welfare communications director Michael J. LaCivita said.

That’s absolutely needed, LaCivita said, because Syria becomes very cold in the winter, and Christians in the country often do not register for aid for help meeting basic needs, like heating, over fears of reprisals.

It’s also important, Sargi said, “because we are the minority in our country, Syria.”

“We are very proud to see the Church thinking about us, thinking about Syrian families, not leaving us alone in this very dark situation.”