CNEWA Executive Returns from the Holy Land

NEW YORK–Msgr. Denis J. Madden, Associate Secretary General of CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association), returned from a two-week fact-finding mission to Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon 2 May.

In Jerusalem Msgr. Madden and Mill Hill Father Guido Gockel, Regional Director for Palestine, Israel and Cyprus, discussed future plans for the West Bank when hostilities cease.

Immediate aid will go to reconstruction of the destroyed sectors, with rebuilding homes and roads a priority, Msgr. Madden said, and labor intensive support will go to paying the wages of workers repairing church and municipal properties.

Some of the rehabilitation projects will be joint efforts with Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

A new program will assist the residents of the area with psychological traumas they may have suffered as a result of the siege, Msgr. Madden said. Psychologists will be brought in to train local professionals to help men, women and children deal with the effects of living under conditions of war.

Msgr. Madden was unable to visit Bethlehem, but he spoke with Franciscan Brother Vincent Malham, President and Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University. The school is closed, Brother Malham reported, Israeli troops have occupied the compound, the brothers are confined to their quarters and their rooms have been searched.

CNEWA along with CRS and other aid organizations have formed convoys bringing food and water to the besieged towns and villages, Msgr. Madden said.

In Jerusalem, Msgr. Madden met with Marcus Nino, an engineer based in the Holy Land who helped restore the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem recently, which was financed by CNEWA. Mr. Nino reported fears that the fourth-century roof of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is in danger of collapsing, not due to any direct hit, he said, but to surrounding Israeli bombardment and reverberations from rockets and bombs.

The Palestinians, Msgr. Madden said, would like to see a more even-handed approach by the United States. They were disappointed with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s trip to the area but, more importantly, they are looking to the Vatican for a binding solution.

From Jerusalem, Msgr. Madden went to Amman, Jordan, an hour-and-a-half drive. He met with Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s Regional Director for Jordan and Iraq. The majority of the Jordanians are from Palestine, Msgr. Madden reported, and many have relatives from the West Bank staying with them until hostilities cease in their homeland. Refugees from Iraq fear a U.S. invasion of their country, he said, with Israel fighting alongside the United States.

While in Amman, he met with Prince Ra’d Bin Zaid, uncle of King Abdullah II. They discussed a joint project of caring for persons with handicaps at centers in and around Amman.

Msgr. Madden’s last stop in the region was Beirut, Lebanon, where his host was Issam Bishara, Regional Director for Jordan and Iraq. They discussed CNEWA-led programs of village rehabilitation and revitalization funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Aid for International Development and Mercy Corps.

Msgr. Madden traveled to Lebanon’s northern border, near Syria, and toured the Dbayeh refugee camp. He stopped at St. Joseph’s vocational orphanage in Dahr el Sawan, where boys, ages 12 through 18, receive training in carpentry and electrical work and baking. These skills, he said, enable the youths to find jobs when they leave the school.

Lebanon, Msgr. Madden said, was the country least affected by the recent fighting in the Middle East. There are ongoing village rehabilitation projects, he said, and he visited a sewage treatment plant, an olive press and a training station for bee keeping and honey collecting. These activities, he said, provide jobs and assist the local economy.

Throughout his trip, Msgr. Madden met with church leaders and gave them reports on his talks with CNEWA Regional Directors.

Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA is a special agency of the Vatican providing support to the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.

Projects include needy child, seminarian and novice sponsorship programs; village redevelopment; health care and education; and interfaith dialogue.

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