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Fact Sheet: CNEWA’s Assistance to Iraqis (1991–2002)

02 May 2003 1991. On 3 May, four 20-ton trucks packed with flour, beans, milk, chickpeas, canned meat, water, sugar, coffee, tea, blankets and medicines left Jordan for the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The “Iraqi Relief Line” was a joint effort coordinated by the Pontifical Mission (CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East). It included the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, Catholic Relief Services, the Gulf Relief Execution Committee (a Catholic Japanese consortium), and the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, a Chaldean Catholic community centered in Iraq.

These provisions fed 8,372 families – about 44,000 people – and were distributed within hours of arrival. In addition, bottled water, baby food and medicines were given to Mosul’s general hospital.

Convoys on 28 May and 23 June proceeded without difficulty. Again, the majority of those receiving aid were the poor from Muslim and Yazidi villages. A fourth convoy, which arrived on 28 July, encountered some difficulty as the Iraqi government began to reassert its control. Eventually, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena distributed the convoy’s contents. In the end, 250,000 people in northern Iraq received emergency supplies, at a cost of $500,000, through the Iraqi Relief Line.

In late December, John Cardinal O’Connor, President of CNEWA, assisted in the distribution of wool blankets and foodstuffs to some 4,000 Iraqis seeking refuge in Jordan. This was part of a project operated jointly by the Pontifical Mission’s Amman office and Caritas Jordan. The Cardinal also provided an extra $50,000 for relief work.

Beginning in December and continuing through early 1992, the Pontifical Mission’s Beirut office provided funds for the Little Sisters of Jesus, who traveled to the mountains of southeastern Turkey to care for thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing the violence in northern Iraq. CNEWA-Pontifical Mission provided thousands of dollars, which the sisters used to purchase food and medicines for refugees settled in Turkish camps.

1992. The Chaldean bishops of Alquoch, Basra and Kirkuk received $21,000 in emergency funds for needy families. Pastoral grants in 1992 to the church in Iraq included $10,000 to help construct an Armenian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad.

1993. On 1 May, Msgr. Robert Stern, President of the Pontifical Mission, traveled to Iraq as part of a five-member delegation led by Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, then the Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. The delegation met with various Christian leaders, Catholic and non-Catholic, in Baghdad and Mosul and with Iraqi authorities. Cardinal Silvestrini had a two-hour meeting with Saddam Hussein.

In June 1993, the Director of the Pontifical Mission office in Amman, Father William Corcoran, followed up with a visit to Iraq to conduct a preliminary pastoral and humanitarian needs assessment. Later, through our Amman office, blankets, food and medicines, totaling $115,000, were distributed through Iraq’s bishops to needy Iraqi families.

Support of the pastoral needs of the churches included $20,000 for the Armenian Catholic Archbishopric, funds for the formation of priests at the Chaldean Patriarchal Seminary of St. Peter, and funds for the formation of religious of the Congregation of St. Ormisdes.

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