Pope Francis blesses a Catholic school student at John F. Kennedy International Airport. (photo: CNS/Craig Ruttle, pool)
A Franciscan sister of the Cross greets a child in Deir el Kamar, Lebanon. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States produced vivid memories. We cherish his loving embraces of God’s little ones, his infectious smiles, his words of encouragement, his paternal affection to all as his children, his teaching on family values and so many more recollections.
There were consistent themes in his presentations and in his manner: mercy to all, forgiveness from God and to one other, and especially the love God has for all his people. The pope did not come to our shores to judge us, but to uplift us in the embrace of our Father in heaven.
As a papal agency, CNEWA is honored and privileged to serve our Holy Father in accompanying local Eastern Catholic churches in many troubled areas of the world. In the Holy Father’s name, we humbly strive to be agents of peace, reconciliation and, especially, love of God for all.
I cherish the many such opportunities I have personally experienced on my pastoral visits to faraway places. In areas of extreme conflict, persecution and poverty, the love of God — as witnessed by the faith of those who suffer so much — rises above the dark clouds of so many ugly realities. As with Pope Francis in his pastoral visit here, the local church in those parts of the world we serve brings hope to so many souls. And CNEWA is privileged to walk with the church in the name of our Holy Father.
My memory bank from my own pastoral visits is also very rich: the smiles of children; mothers who find comfort in the loving and gentle hands of religious sisters; the elderly “orphans” adopted by the church; refugees who gather for holy Mass in an open field or a tent; children seated on a dirt floor, hungry to learn; and countless other images.
For me, there is a direct link between the message our Holy Father has brought to us in the Americas and what CNEWA tries to do in his name in many remote and challenging areas of the world. And you are very much an extension of both the messenger and especially the message of God’s love for all. By your prayerful support and your generous gifts, the CNEWA family brings peace, hope and love to the poor in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.
As you savor fond memories of Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia, remember also how he has been vicariously present to millions of poor people whom CNEWA serves — and how his message of God’s love is shared with all.
May God bless Pope Francis and may he bless the poor we humbly serve.