CNEWA

ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

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

The Last Word

Perspectives from the president

“Broken hearts and many tears…”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, repeated this refrain as we approached the date of our pastoral visit to Israel and Palestine, scheduled for 12-18 April — a visit that was unexpectedly cut short.

In recent years, it has been custom for members of CNEWA’s board of trustees to make pastoral visits to locations where CNEWA is at work on the ground. This year, the chair, Cardinal Dolan, made that visit in April to Israel and Palestine. Michael La Civita, CNEWA’s director of communications, and I were included in his delegation.

The visit was scheduled to mark the 75th anniversary of the presence of CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, Pontifical Mission. In the initial itinerary, many sites were prepared for him to visit and review along with their activities, which Pontifical Mission engages through its team in Jerusalem. Under the leadership of Joseph Hazboun, regional director in Jerusalem, Pontifical Mission is engaged in helping in health care, especially for the elderly, education, youth programs for all ages, and formation of community leaders, including future priests.

Altar server holding a candle.
An altar server during Mass at the Church of the Annunciation in Beit Jala, 14 April, marking the 75th anniversary of Pontifical Mission.

However, the entire region experienced a profound and dramatic change on 7 October, when an attack was launched against the state of Israel. We are all familiar with the news stories that report the massive loss of innocent human life, Israeli and Palestinian, the taking of hostages, the displacement of people and the separation of so many from their families and friends.

Cardinal Dolan, on this pastoral visit, wished to express his solidarity and concern for the seismic shift experienced by all the people in this region, leaving them with “broken hearts and many tears.” 

The cardinal’s faith and radiant joy allowed those we encountered to experience a glimmer of true hope in the crucified and risen Jesus.

He met with survivors of the 7 October attacks and with the families of current hostages. He met with President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine and with President Isaac Herzog of Israel. He visited with Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, with other Christian leaders, and with displaced Palestinians in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. The cardinal engaged in interfaith dialogue and, along with representatives from the European Union, he attended a ceremony to inaugurate a rehabilitation project for the elderly managed by CNEWA-Pontifical Mission. 

Amid such pain, suffering and brokenness, at every stop we made, Cardinal Dolan acknowledged the broken hearts and many tears. Even after an evening of sheltering in place as Israel hunkered down under a barrage of drones and missiles, the cardinal’s faith and radiant joy allowed those we encountered to experience a glimmer of true hope in the crucified and risen Jesus, whose pierced and sacred heart declares the final word to be life, not death, because:

“[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away” (Rev 21:4).

With my gratitude and prayers,

Peter I. Vaccari 

President

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