Pontifical Mission at 60
Celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine were held at the Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem on 25 November. After an anniversary Mass offered by Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, our Jerusalem staff presented an audiovisual history of the work of the Pontifical Mission made with the help of Bethlehem Universitys Media Center.
CNEWA-Pontifical Missions regional director for Palestine and Israel, Sami El-Yousef, made a brief address and hosted a reception that included heads and representatives of all the churches active in the region; ministers and other officials from the Palestinian Authority; representatives from the governments of Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States; and other partners and beneficiaries.
Founded in 1949 by Pope Pius XII, the Pontifical Mission functions as CNEWAs operating agency in the Middle East and has offices in Amman, Beirut, Jerusalem and Rome.
Middle East Christians
CNEWAs campaign on behalf of the Middle Easts Christian community anticipates the upcoming Middle East synod called by Pope Benedict XVI. Scheduled for October, the synod will mark the first time the Holy Father has convoked such a meeting of Middle East Christian hierarchs and religious superiors. He will address the vital role the Christian community plays in the region as well as the issues related to its dwindling size.
CNEWA launched the campaign to galvanize support for the churches and peoples of the Middle East. The effort calls on North Americans to help the many apostolic activities that sustain the churches of the Middle East and to assist the regions refugees – a disproportionate number of whom are Christian, particularly those from Iraq and Palestine.
Thanks to the generosity of CNEWAs benefactors, the mother and child clinic in Shijaia, Gaza, which was destroyed last year, has reopened at a different location in the same town. The new facility occupies a ground floor space, which has been entirely remodeled, furnished and equipped with medical machinery and supplies.
The clinic has resumed most of the services it offered before being leveled during the January 2009 war between Hamas and Israel. Though no one was injured, the Near East Council of Churches facility was completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment was ruined.
In the spring, CNEWAs Jerusalem staff, in cooperation with major international donor agencies, including Caritas Switzerland, Caritas Luxembourg, Secours Catholique, Kinderhilfe Bethlehem and Manos Unidas, began the work of rebuilding Gazas church– sponsored charities, clinics and schools damaged or destroyed in the crossfire.
As part of this effort, CNEWA also covered the cost of desperately needed maintenance work on the Missionaries of Charity Home. Founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the facility houses a kindergarten and convent, whose nuns care for mentally and physically disabled children.
Visiting child care facilities is an important endeavor for CNEWAs regional director for India, Thomas Varghese. Just before Christmas, he drove by car for 15 hours through jungle and sparsely settled areas to visit St. Antony Balabahavan, an orphanage and school located in a remote and almost inaccessible corner of the southwestern state of Karnataka.
Mr. Varghese arrived during a power outage that lasted 12 days in a part of the state that lacks even the basics of infrastructure. The children were disappointed because they could not perform the dances and skits they had prepared to welcome their guest.
The children, who are not accustomed to visitors, were so glum, Mr. Varghese said. So we used our cars lights to illuminate the stage. The children were delighted after all to be able to perform for us.
Administered by the Syro–Malabar Catholic Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Antonys is home to 221 children, all of whom live and attend school there. CNEWAs generous donors support 47 of these children through its child sponsorship program.
Celebrating Christmas in the Holy Land