“Rome has a way of bringing it all into focus,” Monsignor John Kozar observes. It is the “universality” of the city that the CNEWA president credits with providing a unique sense of perspective on the matters at hand.
Two weeks ago, he visited Rome to meet with religious and civil leaders at several important events, including the 85th annual ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Eastern Churches) and the meeting of the Bethlehem University board of regents. Now, back in his New York office, he recounts the details of his trip.
Convoked by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and hosted by the pope, ROACO gathers representatives from Catholic donor agencies serving the Eastern churches and church leaders to plan and coordinate aid.
“It’s exciting to know firsthand how many other agencies there are committed to reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the Eastern tradition,” Msgr. Kozar says enthusiastically. He adds that engaging with Eastern churches has been a source of growth for him. “It’s like learning to use my other lung.”
The proceedings gave Msgr. Kozar the opportunity to confer with members of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches — Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect; Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, secretary; and Msgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, undersecretary — as well as church leaders, such as Cardinal George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Joining them were other important leaders, such as Archbishop Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria; Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio to the Holy Land; and Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., custos of the Holy Land (the leader of the Friars Minor in the Holy Land) and a “dear friend and great collaborator.”
With world-class translators working in four languages, they discussed the pressing issues facing the churches and regions they serve. “We all want to improve: to do good works better,” Msgr. Kozar says.
One of the most important subjects discussed was Christian emigration: Iraqi Christians migrating to Switzerland, Ukrainian Christians moving to Canada, and other such trends in the wake of political upheaval and strife. These trends, Msgr. Kozar notes, require not only attention, but also the ability to change some operations to accommodate geographically shifting needs.
At the event’s conclusion, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address to the assembly, discussing the challenges facing the churches of the East, insisting that “every effort should be made” to achieve peace in Syria. “May you always be eloquent signs of the charity that flows from the heart of Christ and presents the church to the world in her true mission and identity by placing her at the service of God who is love.” Following tradition, the pope then warmly received each participant.
“I had the opportunity to thank the Holy Father for the honor and privilege of doing this great work on his behalf,” reports Msgr. Kozar.
The work of sharing the light of charity and cooperation with the churches of the East is great, with much to be done the world over. However, those who attended the assembly left ready and eager to continue this work — armed with clear focus and two strong lungs.