There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell prey to robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and then went off leaving him half-dead. … But a Samaritan who was journeying along came on him and was moved to pity at the sight. He approached him and dressed his wounds, pouring in oil and wine. He then hoisted him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him.Lk 10:30, 33-34
Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders. And if we extend our gaze to the history of our own lives and that of the entire world, all of us are, or have been, like each of the characters in the parable … In his parable, Jesus does not offer alternatives … Jesus trusts in the best of the human spirit; with this parable, he encourages us to persevere in love, to restore dignity to the suffering and to build a society worthy of the name.Pope Francis, “Fratelli Tutti,” 2020, 69, 71
I offer this perspective as I begin my second year of service as the president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Pontifical Mission.
We have all been overwhelmed by the global devastation, particularly in the loss of human life, which has occurred and continues to be the result of COVID-19. In so many ways, our world has been transformed.
I write, powerfully aware of the omnipresence of horrific stories of violence, tragedy and suffering. Just the memories associated with violence, tragedy and suffering can traumatize people and strip many of hope. Reflect on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. Consider the first anniversary of the explosion in the port of Beirut that occurred on 4 August 2020. Recall the violence, both in nature and through human actions, experienced in each of the regions where we serve: the impact of the violence in the Tigray region on Eritrea and Ethiopia; the suffering of the people in India; ongoing political tension throughout the Middle East; the fears and concerns in Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of St. Luke, both the priest and the Levite were indifferent to the suffering of the man who had been stripped, beaten and left to die along the road. Jesus’ rejection of their indifference must be our call to action!
Over the course of this year, with all the challenges set before our papal agency, I have been overwhelmed by the interest, solidarity and the loving care and concern of our team members for those who are suffering. Our staff in Beirut, Jerusalem, Amman, Addis Ababa, Asmara, Ernakulam, Ottawa and New York City have made heroic efforts to enable your prayers and your generosity to reach those who have been most in need of the service of our mission.
My great hope, God willing, is to visit all our offices and as many of the sites where we serve through your prayers and generous, sacrificial giving. In early August, the visit to Lebanon was an expression of solidarity for our Beirut staff, the people we are privileged to serve, and to concelebrate at the first memorial Mass for the martyrs of the Beirut port explosion.
The previous day, it was a privilege to have a substantive conversation with the Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai. I expressed to him the prayers, greetings and support of our chair, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, archbishop of New York, and of our colleagues in New York City and Ottawa. The patriarch struck me as a man of great faith and prayer, vision and hope for Lebanon’s future even as he recalled Lebanon’s historical contributions to intellectual life, science, the arts, music and religious pluralism.
Permit me to offer another note. The month of September is also marked by the annual session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. All the countries where we work are represented in that international body. The history of the modern papacy has been marked by the visits of popes to the United Nations: St. Paul VI in 1965; St. John Paul II in 1979 and 1995; Benedict XVI in 2008, and Francis in 2015.
Their addresses have called on that international body — an instrument of service to the human family, they reminded the assembly — to uphold the dignity of all human beings; to recognize our stewardship of our created world and our environment; to urge access to clean water for all; and to call for an end to violence and war, hunger and poverty. Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the current permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, has been an outstanding spokesperson for the church in the articulation of our values and our charge in promoting a culture of dialogue.
Please pray with me that the entire CNEWA family will remain committed to promote cultures of dialogue, understanding and forgiveness! It is my daily prayer and fervent hope that we will make the parable of the Good Samaritan our story. Wherever our journey brings us, wherever we see the woman or man who has been stripped of their respective dignity, beaten and left to die, CNEWA will be moved to approach and care for the individuals or communities in need.
We do this thanks to your prayers and your generous financial sacrifices.
Peter I. Vaccari