In mid-January, the Board of Management of the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration met for the first time in Rome. William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore and CNEWA’s Vice President, and Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General, are members of the board. The committee – which is affiliated with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity – raises money for scholarships for Orthodox theologians to study at Catholic institutions and supports Orthodox theologates.
Msgr. Stern described the work of the committee as a “bridge builder” with the Orthodox community.
During a private audience with Pope John Paul II on 18 January, the Pontiff urged members of the board to “find ways to expand its action to respond…to requests that come from the East.”
In the Event of War
Jordan and Lebanon are preparing for an influx of refugees if the United States goes to war with Iraq , reported Msgr. Denis J. Madden, Deputy Secretary General, who visited the agency’s offices in Jerusalem, Amman and Beirut in February.
The Italian Hospital in the Jordanian capital of Amman is stocking medical supplies for an additional six months and doubling its number of beds to deal with refugees. CNEWA’s Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa is also planning to extend its prenatal and pediatric programs. Lebanon , for its part, expects Palestinian refugees to pour into its southern region.
In Iraq , CNEWA will coordinate a general relief program administered by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. Food, clothing and medical supplies will be distributed from 20 centers located in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.
To prepare for the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state, Bethlehem University is planning a public administration program to train future Palestinian leaders.
Msgr. Stern, Chairman of the university’s International Board of Regents, said that at a recent board meeting in Rome plans were outlined for developing this new curriculum. Bethlehem University officials will contact universities in other countries to obtain assistance in designing a program to suit local needs.
Jewish Studies to Rome
The program of Jewish studies at the Pontifical Ratisbonne Institute will be transferred from Jerusalem to the Cardinal Bea Center for Judaic Studies at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome.
Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, who announced the transfer, said the sole aim of the move was to enhance “the academic and scientific status of Judeo-Christian studies.”
Msgr. Stern, an institute board member, said declining enrollment and lack of access contributed to the decision. CNEWA has supported the recent work of the institute.
Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York and CNEWA’s President and Chairman of the Board, and William Cardinal Keeler are also members of the institute’s board.
Reunion in Lebanon
A happy reunion occurred when Jeanne-Marie Neilson of New York City traveled to Lebanon to meet 8-year-old Michel, whom she has sponsored through CNEWA for five years.
Though she reports that Michel is fortunate – his mother works in a school sponsored by the United Nations – Ms. Neilson’s sponsorship is still needed to support the boy and his family. The Little Sisters of Nazareth, who work at the Dbayeh refugee camp near Beirut, have been caring for Michel and other children for years.
Ms. Neilson is a psychological social worker at Catholic Charities in New York, where she has worked some 38 years.
Apostles of Jordan
“Poised for action” is how one editor described CNEWA’s staff in Jordan after visiting the kingdom on a 10-day study tour for Catholic journalists in late January.
The trip included stops at archaeological and biblical sites, meetings with civic leaders, clergy and laity, and visits to CNEWA-supported projects. Of particular importance were visits to Zerqa’s Mother of Mercy Clinic, the Italian Hospital in Amman and CNEWA’s Pontifical Mission Library.
“Clearly, Jordan is the keystone of regional stability,” said Vincent Gragnani, Staff Writer of The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.
The study tour was co-sponsored by CNEWA and the Jordan Tourism Board.