White House Meeting
John Cardinal O’Connor, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, met with President Bush last September at the White House. Secretary James Baker and General Scowcroft were also present.
The cardinal, together with Msgr. Stern and seven selected members of the Lebanese-American community, presented the president with several requests concerning Lebanon. Among them were requests to lift the restrictions on Americans traveling to Lebanon and to increase U.S. aid to that country.
Pope Sends Aid to Cairo
Pope John Paul II sent $150,000 to help the thousands of Egyptians injured and dispossessed by the earthquake last October. The gift, a contribution of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, was sent by the Association’s president, John Cardinal O’Connor.
As a sign of solidarity with the major faiths of Egypt, $50,000 each was given to Dr. Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Mufti and spiritual leader of Egypt’s Sunni Muslim community; Pope Shenouda III, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church; and Patriarch Stephanos II Ghattas, C.M., the Coptic Catholic leader.
The gift was to be disbursed at each leader’s discretion to aid those affected by the earthquake without regard to creed.
Major Benefactors Welcomed
Major benefactors of the Association from the New York area were invited to a special liturgy and reception at the Association’s headquarters last Nov. 15.
During the reception, Msgr. Robert L. Stern thanked those present, and all those who were unable to attend, for their consistent generosity. This generosity, he noted, enables Catholic Near East Welfare Association not only to fund its programs, but to provide emergency relief whenever needed.
Pilgrims Tour Holy Sites
Msgr. Stern led two separate pilgrimages through the Holy Land in late September. The first consisted of 11 members of India’s Roman Catholic hierarchy. The second included members of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, a papal order whose members strive to preserve the presence of the church in the Holy Land.
The pilgrimages are part of the Association’s commitment to educate religious and laity about issues of peace with justice in the Middle East and the work of the church in its “hometown.”
New Restrictions Challenge Iraqi Relief
New limitations imposed by the Iraqi government are challenging the relief efforts of the Pontifical Mission. Local government authorities, said Sister Maureen Grady, C.S.C., are now acting as the sole recipients and distributors of all aid. Sister Maureen, the special assistant to the president of the Pontifical Mission, said that despite these and other obstacles, plans for Iraqi Relief Line III are going forward.
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
The people of Bethlehem are becoming “more desperate and restless,” said Mayor Elias M. Freij in a recent letter.
“Poverty is widespread,” he continued. “Unemployment among men is about 30 percent. For women it is almost 90 percent. The average income for a family of six is about $400 a month. It is not possible for people to live and the crime rate is increasing.”
New Director Appointed for Amman
The Rev. William D. Corcoran has been appointed director of the Pontifical Mission’s Amman office. He replaces Sister Kathryn Callahan, C.S.C., who has returned to her religious community.
A priest of the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, Father Corcoran has traveled extensively in the Middle East and has a special interest in Christian-Muslim issues.