Who Can Be Inattentive to Such a Message?
Archbishop Timothy Dolan spent Easter Week in Lebanon and Syria visiting the ancient Eastern churches in communion with Rome. He accompanied a New York priest (and an old friend of mine), Monsignor Robert Stern, who is the Executive Director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Archbishop Dolan reflects on his trip on his blog. Here are some of his impressions:
They suffer! Yes, the destruction of past wars and violence are still obvious; Christian refugees from Iraq cried as they shared with us their anguish at a center offering food, clothing, and healthcare run by the Melkite patriarch as funded by CNEWA; and pastors told us that weekly their faithful people leave these biblical lands to emigrate to countries offering more hope; and Catholic Palestinian refugees in Beirut, in a camp where CNEWA is present, told us of their near hopelessness after over sixty years of exile.Thank God for those brave souls, who remain, committed to these honored, historic Christian communities! Thank God for organizations such as CNEWA that brings support and encouragement to these inspirational people.
Each of the religious communities thanked us for the much needed sustenance they receive from agencies such as CNEWA and Catholic Relief Services (CRS); each of them especially asked that we convey to you, our people in America, their gratitude, plus their message: “We are still the land of the Bible! We have been here since Jesus, Peter and Paul! And we intend to stay! We need your solidarity in prayer and concern, and we promise you our own!”
Who can be inattentive to such a message?
Yes, these historic Christians are but a wee minority in overwhelmingly Islamic countries. While it has not always been so, now, in Syria and Lebanon, out older brothers and sisters in the faith mostly enjoy freedom and friendship, and their communities are vibrant and respected.
It was so clear to us that, by their perseverance in the faith, by the depth of their prayer and liturgy, by their service in education and charity, by the cohesion of their families and their communities, and by their tenacity in clinging to their homelands, they are indeed a light to the world.
Over and over again we heard them exchange the old Easter greeting:
“Christ is risen!”
“Christ is truly risen!”
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) publishes a bi-monthly magazine, “One.” It is a delight to read and always has splendid photos. It provides a small, but valuable way to foster one’s awareness of the Church Catholic and to support their wonderful mission.