CNEWA

ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

Perspectives

on the world of CNEWA

In the September 2021 issue of ONE, I introduced my Perspectives with a reflection on Pope Francis’ selection of the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:33-34) in his encyclical, “Fratelli tutti.”

Pope Francis challenges us “to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders” when we are confronted with the conditions of our world. CNEWA’s mission is in the service of the Eastern churches — even in countries where the Christian population is the minority. CNEWA works in a world that cries out for an openness to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue as well as an openness to all segments of society.

Permit me to suggest just four of the major themes articulated by Pope Francis in this encyclical, released in 2020. These could serve us well as disciples of Jesus in a world broken by violence in families and among the family of nations, divisive partisan political rhetoric, racism, discrimination, consumerism and a growing throw-away culture that includes the loss of the dignity of all life from conception to natural death.

First, the power of genuine and authentic love, love that seeks only the good of the other. The pope writes: “Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and that is open to all.”

Second, a recognition for the appreciation of a genuine politics, one that manifests as “statecraft” and expresses itself as “political charity.” This political or social charity, committed to the truth, will seek always to promote justice and the common good. Here, Pope Francis locates the contribution of the church’s social teaching.

Third, one of the most cherished themes of this pontificate, that is, working toward a “culture of encounter.” For Francis, we “should be passionate about meeting others, seeking points of contact, building bridges.” He challenges us to instruct our children “to fight the good fight of the culture of encounter.”

Fourth, he invites us to build cultures of “kindness,” where our vocabulary includes the expressions “excuse me,” “pardon me,” and “thank you.”

a religious brother dialogues with students outside.
Left to right, Fahed Nofal, Brother Peter Bray and Bayan Mohammad Awadallah chat on the campus of Bethlehem University in Bethlehem, Palestine. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

I hope and pray that all those attached to CNEWA’s mission and its operating agency in the Middle East, Pontifical Mission, will take time to read, to discuss among friends and to pray over this encyclical.

You may be asking what more you can do to advance CNEWA’s mission to promote solid, meaningful dialogue in the international venues where we work. Yes, we need your prayers. We also need your generous contributions toward our mandate to educate by way of conferences and greater forums for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. With your contributions, CNEWA can be a strong advocate for ongoing dialogue among the various faith traditions. For the pope sees the goal of this dialogue as the building of genuine social friendships.

You may read this perspective during the Christmas season or as we begin the new year of grace 2022. In the mystery of the Incarnation, God became man; God became involved in our world. In light of this mystery of the Incarnation, we cannot elect to ignore the role of “political love,” as described by Pope Francis in his encyclical. The exercise of political love at the level of genuine “statecraft” on behalf of the common good must be a given. Yes, we are called to be political, however, not to engage in partisan politics. Our politics is a politics that fosters the “tender love” of others.

At Christmastime, we become more aware of God’s tender and very public love for us. Are we not called to be instruments of that love? Tender love is one that “draws near and becomes real.” Tenderness, the pope writes, “is the path of choice of … the most courageous men and women.”

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