This past Wednesday, in the frescoed reception rooms of the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches joined CNEWA in hosting a reception to introduce to the Italian community the needs of the Eastern churches. The reception capped a flurry of public activities designed to better acquaint Italian Catholics with some of the issues challenging Christian families, especially in the Middle East. As in North America, the Italian media reports on the political and economic dimensions of the Middle East, but few raise the issue of the Christians who have been living there since the time of Christ.
Cardinal Leonardi Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches; Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre; Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA; and Archbishop Terrence T. Prendergast, S.J., chair and treasurer of CNEWA Canada, welcomed more than 100 prominent Italians, including members of the political community and actor Giorgio Lupano.
“Almost every day, in an area of the world called the Middle East, people face forces far greater than the destruction of a hurricane,” Msgr. Kozar said in an address that referenced the hurricane that devastated parts of New York City and the surrounding regions last autumn. “They face the storms of conflict, hostility, hatred, poverty, injustice and religious and political persecution. At times, there is little hope of survival, let alone the opportunity to rebuild and to live in peace with hope.”
CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, Issam Bishara, reported on the current challenges and work being done for, through and with the Eastern churches in the midst of violent conflicts afflicting the region.
Comboni Missionary Sister Alessandra Fumagalli spoke about the work of her community in southern Jordan, where the sisters run the Italian Hospital in Kerak. “It’s really an emergency,” she said about the large numbers of people needing care from a 40-bed facility.
At his weekly audience the day before the event, the Holy Father thanked CNEWA and its benefactors, a few of whom joined Archbishop Prendergast and Msgr. Kozar in the audience hall, for all the work done on behalf of the church.
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