Serving the Middle East
On 22-23 June, CNEWA-Pontifical Missions senior staff and regional directors for Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria offered reports on the situation of Christians, their needs and funding recommendations for the region at a semiannual meeting convoked by the Holy Sees Congregation for the Eastern Churches to plan and coordinate aid in the Middle East.
Pope Benedict XVI received participants, which included Msgr. Robert Stern, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace on 25 July.
The Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada presented ONE magazine with 11 awards at its annual convention in May held this year in New Orleans.
ONE received six first-place prizes, including General Excellence, Best Photo Story, Best Picture Package, Best Multimedia Presentation, Individual Excellence — Writer/Editor and Best Feature Article.
The magazine also received two second-place awards and three third-place awards, including Best General Publisher Web Site.
The judges, drawn from the secular press throughout North America, described the magazine as top notch, reflecting a high level of writing and reporting expertise and cited it for its amazing photography that grabs the reader right off the cover and keeps delivering throughout.
Middle East Synod
On 6 June in Nicosia, Cyprus, Pope Benedict XVI issued the Instrumentum Laboris, or official working document, for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops that will take place 10-24 October. The presentation of the document came at the end of his three-day visit to the divided country, during which the pope met with Christian and Muslim leaders and laity.
The 44-page document — released in Arabic, English, French and Italian — provides an overview of the current situation of Christians living in the Middle East. It also calls on the international community to help sustain the regions Christians, who often act as peacemakers among their Jewish and Muslim neighbors.
The synod will mark the first time the pope will bring together patriarchs, bishops, religious superiors and others involved with the Middle East to address the issues and concerns of the regions Christian communities. While in Cyprus, the pope said the synod will highlight the important value of the Christian presence and witness in the biblical lands, not just for the Christian community around the world, but also for your neighbors and fellow citizens.
Visit to Gaza
On 15-16 June, CNEWA-Pontifical Missions regional director for Palestine and Israel, Sami El-Yousef, traveled to Gaza, where he visited institutions concerned with the welfare of families.
Mr. El-Yousef visited three Christian schools in the territory: the Latin Patriarchate School, the Holy Family School and the Rosary Sisters School. Though strapped for funds, all three continue to provide first-rate primary and secondary education to some 1,600 Christian and Muslim students. Later that day, he met with members of the board of directors of the Near East Council of Churches to discuss CNEWAs ongoing support of several clinics under their supervision as well as possible involvement in future projects.
The second day, Mr. El-Yousef visited the Anglican-run Ahli Arab Hospital and met with administrators to discuss future collaboration. He then met with the Greek Orthodox bishop of Gaza and members of the Myrrh Bearers Orthodox Society to discuss the implementation of its needy families assistance program (which CNEWA supports) and two income-generating programs for which the society has requested financial support. Mr. El-Yousef then met with local leaders to review a CNEWA-sponsored project to renovate the Brotherhood Park in the Sahte refugee camp. Before leaving, he visited the CNEWA-sponsored Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, which includes a health clinic and a boarding school accommodating 295 deaf children through the ninth grade.
The general mood in Gaza is very pessimistic, said Mr. El-Yousef. People have little hope for any positive developments and are bracing themselves for a continuation of the current situation for some time to come.
Dutch Knights and Ladies
On 10 June, CNEWAs under secretary general, Father Guido Gockel, M.H.M., attended the annual meeting of the Netherlands Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in Zeist. Father Gockel spoke about the relationship between Christianity and Islam within the current context of Israel and Palestine.
He enumerated causes of Christian emigration from the region, including economic hardship, better career and educational opportunities elsewhere, familial and social pressures and a lack of concern for the Christian presence on the part of international policy-makers.
He finished by proposing as a model for dialogue between Christian leaders and their Muslim counterparts the meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Kamil of Egypt in the early 13th century, during which the two came to a meeting of minds on matters of faith.