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.
1994. Benefactors found it difficult to sustain levels of assistance that existed immediately after the Gulf War. Yet the Pontifical Mission’s Amman office managed to increase aid to Iraq.
Grants of $150,000 each were provided to two Catholic hospitals in Baghdad, Al Hayat, a 27-bed prenatal and postnatal hospital run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Raphael, an 86-bed hospital administered by another Dominican community. These funds purchased medicines and medical supplies.
In addition, funds in the amount of $109,561 were distributed to Iraq’s bishops for emergency assistance programs, primarily food and medicines.
Among a number of smaller grants for pastoral purposes throughout Iraq, new theological books were sent to the Chaldean Patriarchal Seminary of St. Peter in Baghdad, which houses young men from the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches as well as the Armenian Apostolic and Assyrian churches.
1995. In Baghdad, our Amman office distributed $691,556 in food, medical supplies and medicines. An additional $150,000 for medicines was given to the Chaldean Bishop of Basra. More than $100,000 in pastoral projects included the construction of a home for the aged in Baghdad, repairs to St. Peter’s Seminary library and the renovation of church structures in Bartella and Karakosh.
1996. In mid-May, the Pontifical Mission’s Regional Director for Jordan and Iraq, Mr. Raymond Riddick, spent one week meeting with Iraq’s Catholic leaders (Armenian, Chaldean, Latin and Syrian). Catechetical centers and health care and educational programs were cited as priorities.
In Baghdad and Basra, $153,928 was used for the purchase of medicines and medical supplies for needy Iraqi families. From $82,000 expended for pastoral purposes, a home for poor retired priests was constructed.
In Amman, Jordan, the Pontifical Mission’s Wednesday Health Clinic, which began in the mid-1990’s, reached out to Amman’s poor, many of them Iraqi refugees, who sought medical care. This clinic at first began at the Pontifical Mission’s office, but was later moved to the Italian Hospital in downtown Amman. Operated by the Comboni Sisters, the clinic now treats Amman’s poor – most of them Iraqi refugees – five days a week. In 1996, $36,000 was reserved for the medical needs of Iraqi refugees in Amman.
1997. $41,156 in medical supplies and medicines was distributed to Al Hayat Hospital, Baghdad. Equipment for the handicapped in the amount of $50,000 was purchased and distributed through the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad.
Pastoral projects, including the formation of seminarians and religious, totaled $42,000. In Amman, $8,463 was spent on the health care of Iraqi refugees.
1998. Medicines and medical supplies, in the amount of $52,211, were distributed to the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Baghdad and Mosul.
Pastoral projects in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, in the amount of $45,174, included the refurbishment of catechetical centers.
For Iraqis seeking refuge in neighboring Jordan, the Pontifical Mission’s Amman office subsidized ($31,000) the rosary-making, income-generating project sponsored by the Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Amman.
In addition, $37,240 took care of the medical needs of Iraqis seeking health care assistance at the clinic at the Italian Hospital in Amman.
1999. While life for the people returned to some degree of normality, health care remained a luxury. Our Amman office rushed $90,742 for medical supplies and medicines. In addition, $30,000 was given to Al Hayat Hospital in Baghdad for construction of a new wing.
The pastoral needs of the church – particularly as Christian emigration escalated – became more pressing. Grants totaling $238,343 were awarded for catechetical programs and church construction in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. An additional $28,400 was reserved for the formation of priests and religious.
In Amman, the Latin bishop’s income-generating project for Iraqi refugees received a $27,690 grant.
2000. Al Hayat Hospital received $122,448 for medicines and medical supplies.
The Armenian Catholic Archbishopric of Baghdad received $20,000 for its income-generating program.
Pastoral programs and projects of the churches, including the formation of priests and religious, totaled $198,067.
2001. From the Pontifical Mission’s Amman office, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena received $132,681 for medicines and medical supplies at Al Hayat Hospital. The sisters in Mosul received an emergency grant of $5,000 for needy families.
Pastoral projects and programs, totaling $204,700, included church renovations and formation of seminarians and religious.
2002. Health care remained a priority for the Pontifical Mission partners in Iraq, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, as well as the local church. The Pontifical Mission’s Amman office gave $127,885 for supplies and medicines, including $13,000 for medicines in Mosul and $109,885 for medical equipment and medicines in Baghdad.
The pastoral work of all the churches in Iraq, Catholic and Orthodox, remained a priority in 2002. $172,542 supported various projects, including priestly formation, assistance to Orthodox parishes in Baghdad and catechetical equipment.
Grand total = $4,044,787.