Yemen church sustains heavy damage as air strikes continue

(Photo: REUTERS/ Mohamed al-Sayaghi)A woman holds a rosary in front of her house on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen on July 25, 2013.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Yemen sustained serious damage after the Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombed the parish during May to flush out Houthi rebels who occupied the building.

The Catholic Fides news agency reported that the church in Aden was not fully destroyed, but the bombing raid inflicted serious damage on the church's roof and walls May 11.

The news agency described the state of the church, built in 1960, saying that the interior of the structure had been vandalized.

Houthi rebels occupied the church in early May as fighting between them and the Saudi-led coalition intensified in the past few weeks.

The church is one of three places of worship for Catholics living in Yemen who are mostly immigrant workers from India. The two other churches are located in different districts within Aden.

Aside from being a place of worship, the church also served as an office for the Ministry of Culture from 1973 to 2011.

The conflict within Yemen has also displaced priests tending to the spiritual needs of the minority Catholic community.

Of the four Indian Catholic priests who were in Yemen, only one has remained in the strife-stricken country.

Two of the priests left the country, while the fourth, who had been out of Yemen when fighting broke out, is still in Djibouti awaiting clearance to return.

Meanwhile, some 20 nuns from the Sisters of Mother Teresa have also remained in Yemen despite the ongoing conflict.

The nuns, who are divided into four communities, decided to stay behind to attend to the needs of the elderly, the disabled and the sick.

Fighting resumed earlier last week after a five-day humanitarian ceasefire lapsed without any development as a far as a lasting truce was concerned.

The Arab coalition-sponsored conference on the Yemen crisis ended on May 23 without a clear path to peace. The coalition, with Riyadh leading the offensive, reaffirmed its support for beleaguered Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

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