New Links with the Soviet Union
Formal diplomatic links between the Vatican and Soviet Union, severed after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, were re-established in late March.
Archbishop Fransesco Colasuonno was appointed apostolic nuncio to the Soviet Union. The Vatican stated that his appointment is a way “to facilitate a permanent dialogue on matters of common interest and to contribute to useful cooperation in the international field.”
In Soviet Byelorussia, the Byzantine Catholic Liturgy was celebrated in Minsk for the first time in 151 years.
Telling Our Story
At the annual convention of the National Catholic Education Association in Toronto, Canada, our staff met with teachers from all over North America. Educational resource materials and publications were distributed at the Catholic Near East exhibit booth.
Russian Patriarch Dies
Patriarch Pimen of Moscow and All Russia died on May 3. The patriarch, who headed the world’s largest and wealthiest Orthodox body, presided over Russian Orthodoxy’s millennium celebrations with the Soviet Union’s imprimatur. He was 79.
Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev has been elected temporary patriarch by the Holy Synod. A new patriarch will be elected by a body of bishops, monks and laymen.
Spring Visits to the Middle East
Msgr. Robert L. Stern and Catholic Near East’s Overseas staff recently visited Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Syria and the Vatican. These visits are part of the Association’s bi-annual visits to check the progress and welfare of agency-aided projects and overseas staff.
In the spring, members of the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches discussed their concern over the functioning of Christian schools in the Middle East, particularly those in Lebanon and Israel/Palestine.
Civil strife in those countries has disrupted operations and has caused severe economic strain on the schools.
Appeal Made to Ethiopia
Pope John Paul II renewed his appeal to government and guerrilla leaders in the Ethiopian province of Eritrea to allow safe passage of relief supplies for the famine-stricken region.
“I feel an urgent obligation to launch an appeal to all those responsible,” the pope said. “Permit the sending of aid. They have been sorely tried by enormous suffering.”
Eritrea and Tigre lost almost all of their crops due to the lack of rain this past spring.
Mother Teresa in Romania
Mother Teresa has opened a home for children with AIDS in Romania. The deadly virus has reached epidemic proportions, affecting thousands of children and newborns.
For health reasons, Mother Teresa resigned, effective September, as superior of the Missionaries of Charity. She founded the order in 1950 in Calcutta, India.
In another development, Romania established diplomatic ties with the Vatican in May.
Arafat received by Pope
In a private audience April 6, Pope John Paul II met with Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
A statement released by the Holy See said the pope “once more affirmed his very profound affection and concern for the Middle East, scarred by many years of great suffering.”
Combating Leprosy in Syria
On the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus the Waleed Leprosy Hospital cares for approximately 210 families afflicted with leprosy. Both Christians and Muslims reside in the facility.
Each month Father Metri Haji Athanasiou and a group of youths visit the hospital, bringing basic necessities to each family.
With the help of Catholic Near East, said the priest, “we attempt to make their lives easier, and give a little more happiness.”
Cardinal OConnor Meets Mayors
John Cardinal O’Connor, president of Catholic Near East, met in late April with Bethlehem’s Palestinian Christian mayor, Elias Freij, and with Teddy Kollek, the Jewish mayor of Jerusalem.
Separate meetings were held but the concerns for peace with justice and religious harmony in the Holy Land were the same.
“I believe that it is of mutual interest for both Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate,” Mayor Freij stated, “so that both can live as good neighbors.”
Were Number 1-Again!
For the second year in a row, the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada awarded Catholic Near East magazine First Place-General Excellence for the mission magazine category.
Awards for best covers and ads were also received at the annual convention, held this year in Nashville, Tenn.
Ecumenical Patriarch visits U.S.
Dimitrios I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, is to visit North America in June and July. His visit is the first ever by an ecumenical patriarch.