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Catholic Near East Welfare Association

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Pastoral Visit to Lebanon

CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar and Communications Director Michael La Civita made a pastoral visit to Lebanon in March, focusing on the works of the local churches caring for displaced Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese families. There, they met with people who touch the lives of those in need on an individual level — including Mother Marie Makhlouf, superior general of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross, an order of mostly Lebanese nuns that cares for children and adults with disabilities. While in the country, Msgr. Kozar hosted a dinner in Beirut with many of the church leadership from Syria and Lebanon. He paid tribute to the work of Issam Bishara, who served as regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt for more than two decades, and passed on the gavel of leadership to CNEWA’s new regional director, Michel Constantin. During the evening, a brief video was shown, highlighting the work of CNEWA’s Beirut office. You can view the video at ONEMAGAZINEHOME.ORG/WEB/BEIRUT. And you can read more about the pastoral visit to Lebanon at our blog CNEWABLOG.ORG/WEB/LEBANON2014.

A Bethlehem Landmark

In February, Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, signed an agreement with the head of the Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Committee for the Restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Ziad Bandak, to provide $500,000 for the first phase of restoration of the ancient basilica, which includes repairs to the roof, clerestory windows and exterior walls.

Originally built by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in the early fourth century and restored in the sixth by the Emperor Justinian, the church marks the site Christians revere as the birthplace of Jesus. The entire restoration project is expected to take up to five years and will cost an estimated $20 million.

German Delegation Visits

In February, a delegation from Misereor, the German Catholic bishops’ organization for overseas development, visited Lebanon. The visitors were briefed on the situation of Syrian refugees in the country and how CNEWA, with its local church partners, is supporting and serving refugees and the poor in the region.

Last year, Misereor awarded CNEWA a grant to help refugee families in Lebanon. Among its undertakings, the project has funded remedial classes to 200 Syrian children; provided schooling and psychological counseling to hundreds of Syrian and Lebanese Armenian children and women; and offered psychological and spiritual counseling to dozens of Syrian families through the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

Egypt’s Damaged Churches

Michel Constantin, CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, and Kamal Abdel Nour, CNEWA’s programs manager based in Beirut, met with local leaders in Egypt in January to inspect the damage to churches caused by acts of violence and demonstrations in 2013. In mid-August, crowds of men had attacked at least 42 churches, burning or damaging 37, as well as dozens of other Christian religious institutions. The attacks came after Muslim Brotherhood supporters claimed a link between Christian Copts and the ouster of President Muhammad Morsi.

Egypt’s military has promised to rehabilitate some of the buildings; much of the damage observed is extensive. CNEWA plans to offer support with furniture and equipment for schools, monasteries, churches and convents impacted by the violence.

Spreading the Word

In March, CNEWA’s external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., gave a presentation on the plight of children in need in the Middle East to a parish in Glendale, California. At a special prayer service held at Incarnation Catholic Church, Father Elias spoke to parishioners about ways CNEWA seeks to alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

Incarnation has strong ties to the neighboring St. Gregory Armenian Catholic Church, which welcomed Father Elias at a liturgy celebrated by Bishop Mikael Mouradian of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of the United States and Canada.

To learn more about CNEWA’s parish and school visitation program, contact Norma Intriago at

Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs

In March, the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Mar Ignatius Zakka I of Antioch and all the East, died in a German hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 81.

Enthroned on 14 September 1980 in St. George Patriarchal Cathedral in Damascus, Patriarch Ignatius Zakka was a prolific author, pastor and ecumenist, known for his work among Catholics, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. He also maintained warm ties with the Muslim community, including Alawis, Druze, Shiites and Sunnis.

Ten days later, the church’s Holy Synod elected as patriarch 48-year-old Mar Cyril Aphrem Karim, who had guided the church’s metropolitan archeparchy in the eastern United States since 1996. Assuming the name Ignatius Aphrem II, the 123rd Syriac Orthodox patriarch is a native of Syria and will return there to lead the ancient church of 3.5 million people.

A Visit to the Horn of Africa

CNEWA’s Msgr. Kozar paid a pastoral visit to Ethiopia in late March and early April with Carl Hétu of CNEWA Canada and Thomas Varghese, CNEWA’s director of programs. Focusing on the many works of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, especially its care for children, the team visited schools and the Mai-Aini Refugee Camp, which houses refugees from Eritrea. Look for a fuller account of the trip online at

New York Supports Sisters

After covering the story of the Good Shepherd Sisters serving refugees in Lebanon, writer Diane Handal was moved to do something on her own to support the sisters and their work. She hosted a fundraising reception at her home in New York City in March. About 30 guests attended, including representatives from CNEWA. The event raised nearly $10,000.

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