Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
24 March 2017
Greg Kandra

Diplomats take part in a round of negotiations with the Syrian government delegation as UN-backed Syria peace talks resumed on 24 March 2017 at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. (photo: AFP/POOL/Debus Bakubiyse/Getty Images)

Geneva talks resume over Syria (Al Jazeera) A fresh round of UN-brokered talks between rival sides in the Syrian conflict resumed in Geneva on Friday but prospects for a breakthrough remain slim, amid ongoing violence across the country. In Syria, rebels were advancing in Hama Province, as part of their biggest offensive against government forces in months...

Mosul’s east begins to bustle but recovery a long way off (Reuters) Eastern Mosul is coming back to life. In the few weeks since Iraqi forces drove Islamic State from this side of the city, markets have opened and bulldozers have begun to clear the debris left by battle. Stalls spilling onto the street in between collapsed buildings display fruit and vegetables, and vendors play recordings advertising SIM cards and mobile phones — use of which was punishable by death under Islamic State. But everywhere are reminders of the pain the city has endured...

Indian cardinal: Dalit Christians facing more discrimination (Crux) A leading Indian Cardinal says the Catholic Church in country now accepts that Dalit Christians face more discrimination given their status of “untouchability.” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay (now called Mumbai), made his comments in discussions about their plight and possible solutions during the annual gathering of the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC), which took place in Mumbai from 18-91 March 2017...

Churches that once shunned one another come together to sponsor Syrian refugees in Canada (RNS) To Yakielashek, that makes what’s happened in Dauphin — a rural community 200 miles northwest of Winnipeg — all the more remarkable. A year and a half ago, three churches put aside theological differences and came together to sponsor the resettlement of three Syrian refugee families to this town of 8,500...

Designer turns refugee tent into a fashion statement (Jordan Times) Once home to a family of Syrian refugees, a UN tent has found a new life as a dress still bearing the marks and stains of its past. “Dress for Our Time,” the brainchild of fashion designer Helen Storey, has turned a discarded tent from the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan into a hooded dress featured on stage at the Glastonbury Festival and in the conference halls of Dubai...

23 March 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2005, Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler, left, places a zucchetto, the purple skull cap worn by bishops, on the head of a new auxiliary bishop named for the archdiocese, Bishop-designate Denis J. Madden, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. Bishop-designate Madden was assistant general secretary of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association prior to his episcopal appointment. (photo: CNS Owen Sweeney III, Catholic Review, Copyright Catholic Review Media, Used with permission.)

We received the news today that an old friend of CNEWA, retired Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, has entered eternal life. Among his many contributions to the Church, he served as a member of the board of CNEWA and was a prominent voice in Catholic-Jewish relations.

From Catholic Review:

Cardinal William H. Keeler, 14th archbishop of Baltimore, an international leader in Catholic-Jewish relations and the driving force behind the restoration of America’s first cathedral, died 23 March at his residence at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville. He was 86.

Cardinal Keeler served as the spiritual shepherd of the Baltimore archdiocese from 1989 until his retirement in 2007.

Archbishop William E. Lori, one of Cardinal Keeler’s two successors, said one of the great blessings of his life was coming to know Cardinal Keeler, whom he met when the cardinal was bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., and Archbishop Lori was priest-secretary to Washington Cardinal James Hickey.

When Cardinal Keeler became archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori said he learned of “his prowess as a church historian coupled with his deep love and respect for the history and heritage of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

Among Cardinal Keeler&ersquo;s many accomplishments in the Baltimore archdiocese, Archbishop Lori highlighted “the wonderful visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Baltimore in 1995, the restoration of the Basilica of the Assumption and the creation of Partners in Excellence which has helped thousands of young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods to receive a sound Catholic education.”

“When I would visit the cardinal at the Little Sisters of the Poor (in Cardinal Keeler’s retirement), I gave him a report on my stewardship and told him many times that we were striving to build upon his legacy — a legacy that greatly strengthened the Church and the wider community,” Archbishop Lori said in a written statement...

...Cardinal Keeler was himself a champion of interfaith and ecumenical understanding, regarded as one of the world’s leading figures in the field.

When Jewish conductor Maestro Gilbert Levine, the “pope’s conductor,” visited Baltimore in 2000 to conduct a special performance of Haydn’s “Creation” for an international interfaith musical pilgrimage, he asserted that Cardinal Keeler’s “very body is in the rhythm of interfaith.”

Cardinal Keeler was named a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1994. He also served as episcopal moderator of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 1984 to 1987. While leading that group, Cardinal Keeler arranged for St. John Paul II to meet with Jewish leaders and Protestant representatives in South Carolina, and attend an interfaith ceremony in Los Angeles during the pope’s 1987 visit to the United States.

After Catholics and Lutherans agreed to a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, Cardinal Keeler and Bishop George Paul Mocko, then bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, nailed a copy of the document to the doors of the Baltimore Basilica and also Christ Lutheran Church in Fells Point.

“He knew how to listen,” said Rabbi Joel Zaiman, rabbi emeritus of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore. “He heard. He understood, and he responded genuinely and generously. He was always available when I called — wherever he was — oftentimes, Rome.”

It was important to the Jewish community that the cardinal had the ear of the pope, Rabbi Zaiman said.

Rabbi Abie Ingber of Xavier University, Cincinnati, and Dr. William Madges, of Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, curators of a national exhibition highlighting St. John Paul II’s relationship with Jews, honored Cardinal Keeler in 2010 for his work promoting Catholic-Jewish understanding by presenting him with a bronze medallion. The cardinal had worked to promote the exhibit, which was featured at Baltimore’s Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Rabbi Ingber noted that one of the titles for the pope is “pontifex maximus,” which means “master bridge builder.” Recognizing Cardinal Keeler’s contributions as a bridge builder, the rabbi joked that if there was such a title as “pontifex almost maximus,” the cardinal should have it.

Read more.

Our prayers today are with Cardinal Keeler and all those who love him. May his memory be eternal.

23 March 2017
Greg Kandra

This 2014 image shows the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Mosul before and after it was seized by ISIS. Reports today indicate the church has been liberated. (photo: Irish Catholic)

Iconic Chaldean church in Mosul liberated (Irish Catholic) A Chaldean Catholic church whose image announced the fall of Mosul in 2014 has been liberated. When so-called Islamic State (ISIS) swept through Iraq in June 2014, a ‘before-and-after’ picture of the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual help in Mosul emerged showing the crucifix topping the building replaced by the black banner of the terror group. Reports at the time detailed how the Christian community desperately fled the city as ISIS rapidly imposed its rule there...

U.S. supports raid in Syria against ISIS (USA Today) The U.S.-led coalition flew a contingent of Syrian opposition forces behind enemy lines in a daring raid to cut off the Islamic State’s remaining supply line to the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The operation to seize Tabqah dam was backed by some of the most extensive coalition support yet for the U.S.-backed local forces battling the Islamic State in Syria...

Archbishop urges Syrian Christians to return to Aleppo (SIR) “Aleppo awaits you”: this is the appeal that Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Greek Catholic Archbishop of the Syrian city, made to all the faithful, to encourage them to return to the homes they were forced to flee to escape the horrors of a war which had split the city in two in July 2012 — Western Aleppo, controlled by the government, and Eastern Aleppo, controlled by the rebels — before it was completely recaptured by President Assad’s forces in December 2016...

Baltimore’s Cardinal Keeler dies (CNS) Cardinal William H. Keeler, the retired archbishop of Baltimore who was known for his vital role in ecumenical and interreligious relations, died early 23 March at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in the Baltimore suburb of Catonsville. He was 86...

What I learned as a doctor in Ethiopia (TIME) I found myself in a packed labor and delivery ward. When a woman gave birth to an unexpected twin who was not breathing, we had no choice. With virtually no protective gear, two nurses I’d brought with me jumped in and saved the baby. We had no way to clean up, because this massive, overcrowded hospital in Ethiopia hadn’t had water in six weeks. We left covered with blood. The operating room, as well as the labor and delivery room, were cleaned with a single cup of water from one of the containers that had to be trucked in. We returned to our hotel and used the trickle coming from the shower to clean up, and we felt lucky to have it...

Palestinian women try to bring baseball to Gaza (AP) The young Palestinian women don baseball caps on top of their Islamic headscarves and field tennis balls with fabric gloves, giving a decidedly local feel to the great American pastime. They are trying to bring baseball to the Gaza Strip, an effort that is still in its early innings...

22 March 2017
Judith Sudilovsky, Catholic News Service

The restored Edicule is seen during a ceremony marking the end of restoration work on the site of Jesus’s tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 22 March.
(photo: CNS/Sebastian Scheiner, Reuters)

Less than a year after restoration work began, the Edicule — the traditional site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection — was inaugurated in an ecumenical ceremony led by representatives of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian churches, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

The 200-year-old structure was rehabilitated for the first time after Israeli authorities deemed it unsafe and leaders from the three churches that share custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre came to an agreement for the work to proceed. Some did not believe the churches could overcome their centuries-old disagreements, but the project was a sign that “with God, nothing is impossible,” said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

“This apparent mission impossible became possible because we allowed God to enlighten our thoughts and our eyes and our relations. Things do not change by themselves. If we are here for this celebration, it is because the different churches and leaders were able to hear the voice of God and understand and realize and accept that it was time to build new relations between us of trust and respect,” he said.

Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, said it was “providential coincidence” that this year, as the Edicule is restored, all the Christian denominations celebrate Easter on the same date. It was also fitting, he said, that it was around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that the churches regained a closer relationship.

Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian took the opportunity to mention the three other denominations with a presence in the church — the Assyrian Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Coptic Orthodox. He asked that the Anglican and Russian Orthodox churches be allowed to offering their holy liturgy at the Edicule once a year, after Easter.

“We must pray earnestly to Jesus Christ to give us the wisdom to be able to absorb literally between ourselves his greatest commandment of love,” said the patriarch. “We have no difference in regard to this commandment and, unless we accept his commandment and express it in our lives and deeds, how can we consider ourselves Jesus’ disciples?”

Several hundred local faithful, pilgrims and international dignitaries filled the main area of the basilica where the Edicule is located, taking pictures and videos of the pink-stoned structure. The metal girders that British Mandate authorities added in 1947 to keep it standing have been removed.

“It is a very exciting day which hasn’t happened in hundreds of years. It is a very big step, we are all united in celebration,” said Marlen Mauge, 53, a Catholic from Jerusalem. “We would like to have more than one united celebration. It is a good message to the world.”

Antonia Moropoulou, a professor at the National Technical University of Athens, directed the work at the site.

22 March 2017
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2014, a refugees mother stands with her children in an informal tented settlement near Deir el Ahmar in the northern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. The U.S. bishops today released a pastoral reflection calling on Catholics to “accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.” (photo: CNS/Sam Tarling, CRS)

Bishops call on U.S. Catholics to ‘accompany’ migrants, refugees (CNS) The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released 22 March called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.” Titled “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times,” the reflection was issued “in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands,” said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops...

Eritrean Catholic bishop visits diaspora in the U.S. (CNS) Two weeks before arriving in Ohio on a nationwide pastoral visit, Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim of the Eparchy of Segheneity, Eritrea, got word that eight young people from his eparchy died trying to make their way to Europe in search of a better life. It’s an all-too-common story, Bishop Tsalim told Horizons, newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, 7 March. Bishop Tsalim, 46, was at St. John Chrysostom Parish in Columbus, Ohio, in early March visiting the Eritrean Catholic diaspora who have been worshiping with the Byzantine Catholic community since 2014. He is the first bishop of the Segheneity Eparchy, which was established in 2012...

U.S. airstrike in Syria said to have killed dozens of civilians (The New York Times) At least 30 civilians have been killed in an airstrike by the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in a rural area of Raqqa Province in northern Syria, according to residents, activists and Syrian state television...

ISIS shells recaptured areas of Mosul (Reuters) Islamic State militants shelled areas recaptured by Iraqi forces in western Mosul, hitting civilians fleeing the fighting early on Wednesday as troops edged their way through the narrow, dangerous streets of the Old City...

Anti-Christian politician wins leadership of India’s biggest state ( An Indian politician who’s previously accused Mother Teresa of “a conspiracy to Christianise India” has become leader of the country’s most populous state. Yogi Adityanath, who represents the Hindu nationalist BJP, won comprehensively in recent elections in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP won 325 of the 403 seats available and Adityanath was crowned chief minister of the state...

Good Friday collection will benefit Holy Land Christians (CNS) As Christians in the Middle East continue to suffer innumerable hardships this Lenten season, the Vatican has announced that this year’s Good Friday Collection will benefit Christian communities in the Holy Land. “Once again, from every part of the Church, expressions of solidarity come together effectively in the Good Friday Collection,” stated Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, in a recent press release...

21 March 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

For two decades, Caritas Georgia has provided a wide range of services — including classes and health care — to the most vulnerable populations of the Caucasus. Read a letter from the director of Caritas Georgia in the Winter 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Antonio di Vico)

Tags: Education Georgia Caritas Caucasus

21 March 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

A Palestinian woman, pictured from the West Bank village of Deir Ballut, farms a field in front of the Israeli Jewish settlement of Peduel. (photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)

Small farmers struggle worldwide, but Palestinian farmers really have it rough (Washington Post) Palestinian farmer Fawzi Ibrahim is proud of his heirloom corn, whose kernels ripen in iridescent shades of red, blue and gold like jewels. But what makes it priceless are the obstacles he faces to grow his crops. Small farmers struggle worldwide. But international experts say Palestinian farmers face disabling odds in the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control and is home to some 400,000 Jewish settlers. As settler agricultural start-ups get prioritized access to water, export markets and development rights, the Israeli occupation is roiling the centuries-old pastoral life of Palestinian farmers, experts say, adding fuel to a conflict in which land is a trigger…

CNEWA cofounder takes a step toward sainthood (Catholic News Agency) The Catholic convert who founded the Society of the Atonement and cofounded CNEWA, Father Paul Wattson, S.A., could be one step closer to recognition as a saint. “Father Paul started a small week of prayer on the top of a mountain in Garrison, and now it’s a worldwide movement,” Father Brian Terry, S.A., the minister general for the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, told the Catholic New York newspaper…

Chaldean Patriarchate: Diaspora must take charge of the shortage of priests (Fides) Many of the Chaldean communities of the diaspora are asking their patriarchate to send priests for pastoral care. Because the pastoral care of communities present in the cradle of the Chaldean Church remains a high priority, the Chaldean Patriarchate cannot send priests working at the service of the dioceses in Iraq overseas. For this reason, the communities of the diaspora, with their bishops, are urged to take steps to address the problem of the shortage of priestly vocations at a local level…

Assyrians may never be able to return to Mosul (AINA) More than 100,000 Christians were forced to flee Mosul in Iraq when ISIS invaded in 2014. And as the Battle for Mosul reaches its final stages some Christians have attempted to return to the city. But a vicar, whose church 50 miles away in Erbil cares for hundreds of Christian families who left their homes, has warned a huge danger remains. Father Daniel says the terror cult’s destructive ideology has already spread to the next generation, sparking fears ISIS will continue their chilling campaign to boot Christians out of the Middle East…

Ancient palace emerges from under Mosul shrine destroyed by ISIS (Al Monitor) The capture of the shrine of the prophet Yunus in Mosul on 19 January from ISIS, whose fighters rigged the shrine and blew it up 24 July 2014, revealed the extent of the destruction inflicted by the militants. On 28 February, archaeologists uncovered a palace beneath it, intact since 600 B.C. The palace highlights the significant historical value of the site, dating back to the Assyrian Empire, which emerged centuries before the Christian era…

Legendary tomb of Jesus resurrected (Christian Science Monitor) After centuries of disrepair, one of Christianity’s holiest sites returns to life. Believed by the devout to house the final resting place of Jesus Christ, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre will open to the public on Wednesday after nearly a year of restoration. An ongoing dispute between the religious groups controlling the site had brought the burial place, known as the Edicule, to the brink of collapse. “We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” director of the restoration Antonia Moropoulou told National Geographic. “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ…”

Tags: Iraq CNEWA Palestine Saints Historical site/city

20 March 2017
Greg Kandra

In the video above, a Syrian couple visits the Vatican and describes the toll the war has taken on their country. (video: Rome Reports)

Pope to visit Egypt (Vatican Radio) In response to the invitation from the President of the Republic, the Bishops of the Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic trip to the Arab Republic of Egypt from 28 to 29 April 2017, visiting the city of Cairo...

Israel reportedly launches strike on Syria (The Los Angeles Times) An Israeli aircraft reportedly launched a strike into Syria on Sunday that left one person dead, in what appeared to be the second cross-border attack in three days as tensions between the neighbors escalated over the weekend...

Muslim family donates $15 million to Notre Dame for religious studies institute (The New York Times) The Ansaris announced a $15 million gift to the University of Notre Dame, one of the top Catholic universities, to create the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement With Religion. The institute will aim to deepen knowledge of religion and look to explain how the traditions and practice of various religions influence world events...

European Union gives $178 million to battle Ethiopian drought (Bloomberg) The European Union said it’s giving an extra 165 million euros ($178 million) to battle humanitarian crises in East Africa, including a famine in South Sudan and drought in Somalia. From the total, 100 million euros will be allocated to help responses to the crisis in South Sudan and an influx of its refugees to neighboring countries, the EU said Monday in an emailed statement. Humanitarian assistance for droughts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya will be targeted with 65 million euros...

Hindu, Muslim and Christian actors portraying the Passion of Jesus in Kerala (Herald Malaysia) Artists from various Indian states are staging the Passion of Christ until 22 March in 14 parishes in Kerala. Most of the performers are Hindu and belong to the Pretna Kala Manch (Art Forum for Inspiration) Theatre Company. Speaking to AsiaNews, the Rev. Anand Mathew IMS, author, director and coordinator of the Vishwa Jyoti Communications (Indian Missionary Society Information Centre), said that the most dramatic scenes, like the one in which Christ is nailed to the cross, “provoked such strong emotions that many spectators burst into tears...”

16 March 2017
Greg Kandra

A man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an ISIS-controlled part of Mosul toward Iraqi special forces soldiers during a 4 March battle in Mosul.
(photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

100,000 flee as Iraqi forces advance in Mosul (Al Jazeera) Iraqi government forces battling ISIL for Mosul took control of a main bridge over the River Tigris on Wednesday and advanced towards the mosque where the group’s leader declared a caliphate in 2014...

Calls for world leaders to act on conflict in Syria (Vatican Radio) It is now been six years since the start of a brutal civil war that has engulfed Syria. The ongoing conflict has forced thousands of people to flee and has left countless others who have remained trapped in besieged areas throughout the country...

Holy See calls on U.N. to end conflict, human trafficking (Vatican Radio) “The Holy See urges the Security Council to take a greater role in the fight against the scourge of trafficking in persons.” That is the message of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who was invited this week to address the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Trafficking in persons in conflict situations: forced labour, slavery and other similar practices, at UN Headquarters in New York...

A message from Turkey, a nation under pressure (The New York Times) The country is battling two separate terrorism campaigns (one led by secular Kurds, the other by Islamic State extremists) and two land wars (in southeast Turkey and northern Syria). It is hosting more displaced Syrians — around 2.75 million of them — than any other country except Syria itself. It is caught between growing tensions over Syria between its NATO allies on one side and its neighbor, Russia, on the other. And it is torn by its own internal debates over the role of Islam in society...

Christian growth in India brings new concerns (The Irish Catholic) Can good news for a community be, simultaneously, bad news for that same community? It seems that this is possible if one is living within the Christian population of India...

Heroic nun is saving children ( Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, based in the capital of Madhya Pradesh, considers Sister Animuttil a “rare person who put her own life at risk for others. [She is] a great example of both the struggles of women and what women can do with conviction and faith,” he said...

15 March 2017
Beth Griffin, Catholic News Service

A religious sister comforts a sick woman in 2016 at Snehadam Old Age Home in Gurgaon, India.
(photo: John E. Kozar)

An “invisible” Catholic organization celebrated 90 years of quiet service to the poor in the Middle East, northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.

Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said the agency maintains a low profile because it works through and with the local church.

“They know best how to represent the face of Christ. We trust their experience, holiness and knowledge about how to govern and care for their people,” he said in a 28 February interview with Catholic News Service.

The mission of the organization is to serve and accompany Eastern Catholic churches in pastoral and humanitarian activities, generally at the level of the diocese or eparchy, Msgr. Kozar said. A secondary mission is to share the needs of the Eastern churches with people in North America who may be confused about where Eastern churches fit in the larger Catholic picture.

Eastern Catholic churches have their origins in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India or northeast Africa; have distinctive liturgical and legal systems; and are often identified by the national or ethnic character of their region of origin. Members of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches enjoy the same dignity, rights and obligations as members of the Latin Church.

Msgr. Kozar said people in North America have little exposure to Eastern churches and he takes it in stride when asked if Eastern Catholics are “really Catholic” and if they are under the authority of Pope Francis. “I say, ‘Yes! We are one church with two very enriching traditions, Latin and Eastern.’”

He said Eastern Catholic churches are typically smaller than Latin churches. Many have deep historic roots and are in areas of suffering and religious persecution.

Catholic Near East Welfare Association was founded in 1926 in response to a request by Pope Pius XI to unite all American Catholic organizations providing aid to Russia and the Near East. Near East is an imprecise geographic term that encompasses southwest Asia and the Arabian Peninsula.

As a papal organization, it has a mandate from the Vatican to support the Eastern Catholic Church. Another mandate of the agency is to work for union among Catholic and non-Catholic Eastern churches, including the Orthodox churches.

In recent years, the association spent approximately $22 million annually on assistance in 14 countries.

The abiding challenge is with refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East, especially Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Msgr. Kozar said. Access in Syria has been sharply limited because of the ongoing conflict, but the organization is still helping the local churches provide milk, bedding, diapers and antibiotics to their people.

“There are heroic priests, sisters and bishops who never left. Some Catholics and other Christians have been hunkered down for more than five years,” he said.

Catholic Near East Welfare Association also is active in areas where the church has experienced persecution and retribution, such as Egypt. In one town, the agency funded the repair of a section of a burned-out orphanage so the sisters living there could continue to care for 15 children. The orphanage was one of 55 church properties damaged in anti-Christian violence during 2013.

Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, talks with an Ethiopian woman in a village in 2015.
(photo: CNEWA)

The agency also supports school feeding programs for children in drought-affected parts of the horn of Africa. It serves some of the 1 million families displaced in Ukraine as a result of fighting along the border with Russia.

In India, the agency supports evangelization in the remote tribal areas in the northern part of the country. “It’s very uplifting how people have a yearning to have a different experience of God or to experience him for the first time,” said Msgr. Kozar, who has visited the area several times.

“It’s the most basic form of evangelization,” he said. “Priests and sisters live in villages with indigenous peoples and share their prayer life in a very basic way.”

The two Eastern Catholic churches in India are the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara, which trace their origins to St. Thomas the Apostle.

Pope Francis is expected to travel to India this year, possibly in November. Msgr. Kozar said the visit will give hope to the people and encourage them to continue their many good works of charity and service. He said Catholics comprise only 1 percent to 1.5 percent of the population. “The Catholic Church contributes tremendously to the education environment, medical care and social services, disproportionate to our numbers,” he said.

Catholic Near East Welfare Association works to empower Eastern Catholic churches through education and formation of religious, clergy and communities, according to Michael J.L. La Civita, the agency’s communications director.

“We’re not teaching them how to be a church. We’re providing resources and sometimes know-how to build more responsive and holy churches,” he told CNS. “They start with a foundation and it has to be sustainable, so we have to be invisible.”

“These are churches rooted in the time of Jesus and the apostles, and filled with men and women doing great things,” he said. Instead of falling into despair because of extraordinary challenges in the current day, “they are motivated by the Gospel to do something to change the situation,” he said.

Although the organization’s efforts are “for, through and with” the Eastern Catholic churches, La Civita said humanitarian aid is provided to all as a witness to the Gospel. “This requires us to be in dialogue of other communities of faith,” he said.

La Civita said the agency’s accompaniment extends to Orthodox and other Christian and non-Christian traditions. It also participates in national and local Catholic dialogues with Muslims, Jews and Orthodox.

As archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan serves as the agency’s chairman.

“In this role I have visited a number of Eastern churches in some very challenging areas of the world,” he said in response to a question from CNS.

“This papal agency is focused on, as Pope Francis would say, accompaniment — reaching out in a pastoral way to demonstrate solidarity of the Holy Father and the church universal with these local churches that suffer greatly, and are even persecuted,” the cardinal said. “Our message is clear and simple: You are not alone. We are here, and we love you.”

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