Christmas celebrations in Syria this year have been limited to prayers and masses only due to the events taking place in the country and in respect of the souls of the martyrs who offered their lives to defend the dignity of Syria. Prayers and masses were held on Tuesday in all churches and places of worship across the country, with Christmas sermons stressing that the awareness of the Syrian people is the element which will achieve victory over the conspiracy targeting all Syrians, and praying for the souls of martyrs and for Syria to remain secure, stable and steadfast. In St. George Cathedral for the Syriac Orthodox in Damascus, Archbishop Paul al-Souqi, Bishop Jean Qawwaq, and Bishop Matthew al-Khouri held mass, assisted by Father Goerge Kouriye and the students of St. Ephraim Academy and the St. Ephraim the Syriac Choir. Bishop Matthew al-Khouri delivered a message from Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Patriarch Zakka I Iwas, in which he spoke of the meaning of Christmas which inspires cheer in people, which makes it a duty to spread cheer and mend broke hearts. He called on Syrians abroad to keep their homeland in their heart, stressing that peace isn’t a mere word or slogan, rather t’s a matter of destiny, future, life, dignity, sovereignty, rights and duties, adding that working for peace is harder and more complex than war. Bishop al-Khouri foretold a bright dawn coming to Syria, beseeching all decision-makers and people with good intentions in Syria to end violence and bloodshed and engage in dialogue. He concluded by praying for the martyrs of Syria and offering condolences to their families. A mass was also held in the National Evangelical Church in Damascus, presided upon by Pastor Peter Zaour, assisted by Pastor Samuel Hanna and the church choir. Pastor Zaour said that the celebration of Christmas comes at a time of sadness due to the bloodshed, instability and destruction taking place in Syria, praying that the passing days of tears and destruction will be left behind and that a new life of love, compassion and reconciliation will begin.