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ICC Note:
The Monastery of San James north of Damascus, Syria is another prime example of the dangerous situation facing Syria’s Christian population. Situated between two warring groups the monastery and the Christian community that still resides there is in danger of being overrun by armed forces who are opposing the Assad regime but have also taken aim at Syria’s Christian community.
7/4/2013 Syria (Fides) – The Belgian Catholic priest Fr. Daniel Maes, 74, of the religious Order of “Canons Regular Premonstratensian”, is in the sights of jihadist groups who intend to eliminate him and invade the monastery of San James mutilated in Qara, 90 km north of Damascus. The monastery, belonging to the Greek-Catholic diocese of Homs, is situated on a border area between warring groups and could be occupied to become a military logistic base of the rebels. After the death of Fr. Francois Murad, the Christian community in Syria is very concerned. Each line of communication with the monastery is interrupted. The alarm was sent to Fides Agency by some Catholic Syrian leaders and by the families of monks living in St. James, who belong to 9 nationalities, even in Europe.
Fr. Maes taught moral theology in Belgium for 20 years and since 2010 resides at the monastery, where he is director of the Seminary. The convent of St. James in Qara is an ancient structure dating back to the fifth century A.D. There is a female monastic community, led by the Palestinian nun, Sister Agnes Mariam de la Croix, enriched over the years by a religious community of men and families of lay Christians, Sunnis and Alawites. In past months, the monastery was at the center of gunfire and was hit and damaged by the bombing of the regular Syrian army helicopters that probably wanted to hit arms depots placed in trenches or ditches near the monastery, used for supplies of water in the Byzantine period.
Lately, the monastery houses and assists refugee families, regardless of their religious affiliation. Fr. Daniel maintains close contacts with Syrian groups in France, Belgium and the Netherlands which, through voluntary associations, send humanitarian aid to the displaced.

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