The Coptic churches have not abandoned the Zabbaleen — the garbage people of Cairo. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The Sisters of St. Dorothy serve hearing-impaired children at the Paul VI Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The church universal has been invited by Pope Francis to join him in celebrating a Year of Mercy, which we initiated on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in December. During this year, our Holy Father encourages us to put on the eyeglasses of mercy and compassion in all our human thoughts and actions. This might seem simple to some and impossible to others. But those two words — mercy and compassion — are the heart of the Gospel. They comprise CNEWA’s mandate.
In CNEWA’s world, we are blessed with a myriad of ambassadors of Christ who live out this mandate every day in their good works in serving all: rich and poor, good and bad, friends and enemies. I know this firsthand, as I am privileged to visit many countries where CNEWA accompanies the Catholic Eastern churches in pastoral outreach to all in need.
I recall many examples of religious sisters and priests assisting women who are second-class citizens in many cultures with no rights for education or employment opportunities. Many women served by our partners are the most vulnerable: mothers with young children, abandoned women, domestic workers and those with special needs.
I also recall the mercy and compassion of our CNEWA partners as they serve those who are not even considered citizens of a country because they have no social status and, as a result, do not officially exist. But the church reaches out with mercy and compassion and affords them a dignity that emanates from the death and resurrection of Christ.
I recall thousands of little children forced to flee their homeland or forced to live in the streets as orphans and how CNEWA supports with mercy and compassion the needs of these little ones and gives them a home and the loving environment of a holy family. Sometimes, religious sisters have become their spiritual mothers and give them a sense of hope and security, surrounding them with an abundance of compassion.
I recall how the church, with the help of CNEWA, brings together victims and perpetrators in the embrace of mercy and compassion and how enemies become new friends.
I recall the heroic example of countless religious men and women and dedicated lay associates, doing what many would consider impossible, but always responding to the needs of others with mercy and compassion. There are those surrounded by the atrocities of war and oppression, the victimization and horrors of terrorism, the lack of basic food and water — and yet, they continue to radiate the victory of the cross to Christians and non-Christians alike.
These partners of CNEWA teach us very clearly that to respond with mercy and compassion in every instance in our thoughts and actions is neither simple nor impossible. One thing is certain: With the help of God, we can give it our best effort.
Thank you for your abiding prayers for our ambassadors of Christ, our partners in the field, who provide the ultimate classroom for how we might celebrate this Year of Mercy. May God bless them and may he continue to bless all of you for your prayerful and financial support.
May this coming year be filled with mercy and compassion.