* * * * * *Rome: Vatican Radio - Many Catholics today are surprised when they hear that their Church is made up of a myriad of ancient rites and not just the Latin one. Many of these 22 rites stem directly from the lands where Jesus lived.
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is trying to raise awareness among the faithful that the Church’s rich tapestry of eastern traditions is an historically important source of strength for the Universal Church. But, these ancient churches need our help.
That’s why the President of CNEWA, Monsignor John Kozar is co-hosting with the Pontifical Congregation for Eastern Churches a special event and pilgrimage in Rome this week. He and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation, are hoping to introduce Italians, mostly Catholics, to the reality of the eastern rite churches.
They’re doing so with the help of the Kights of the Holy Sepulchre who have a long tradition of cooperation with the churches in the Holy Land. The Knights will be hosting a get-to-know each other event Wednesday January 16th in their Grand Hall here in Rome.
“All of this is at the fullest level of cooperation with the Congregation for Eastern Churches which really excites me because we have a great partnership,” Msgr Kozar says. “I’d like to say it in these terms: together, the Holy Father invites us, of course the congregation is his main outreach in service to the eastern churches – but, he invites us in partnership with them to extend the reach.”
Prominent Italians from the political, civic and social spheres are expected to attend next Wednesday’s event. The directors of CNEWA offices in Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem will also mingle with guests and share their experiences working among the poor, and especially among the hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding over Syria’s borders.
A suffering Eastern Church
“We want to open a little door,” explains Msgr Kozar, “to share with Italians (this little known segment of the Universal Church). You know, there’s a great family at work and we’d like you to learn a little bit about this eastern Catholic family. It’s part of the universal Catholic family. And we’re given a special privilege of serving them because although they’re very historic and they’re in the original lands of Jesus, they suffer greatly because in those lands they lack a lot of things.”
“We want to share (with Italians) both the great good news of this heritage…but at the same time these tremendous needs and how we’re very honoured to respond. And just maybe, they might want to become part of the CNEWA family too, to help us reach out.”
Speaking of the refugee crisis from the conflict in Syria, Msgr Kozar explains that his organization is focusing primarily on the displaced in Syria. The association’s funds are insufficient to offer major help, but CNEWA is able to provide some of the basics like clothing, bedding and food to some 500 – 1000 families, he says.
All is delivered by “our hands-on agents, part of our family,” says Kozar who assures donors in this way “that it’s not going to the wrong places or it’s not being used for something else.”
Besides its offices in the Middle East and Egypt, CNEWA is present in India and Eastern Europe with healthcare and schools "as a sign of solidarity with the local population." Msgr Kozar says that’s a significant part of CNEWA’s mission: “our presence.”
“We can’t pretend to match what huge government aid agencies can and should do,” he says. “ We help with humanitarian aid of course…health care aid, but I think we’re best at maintaining the presence, the face of Christ: priests, sisters, lay people, catechists, formators…even though our numbers are very small, we try to keep an abiding presence.”
To learn more about CNEWA Canada or to make a donation to help suffering Christians in the Middle East and among the Oriental Churches of India and Eastern Europe: www.cnewa.ca.
Pour en savoir plus sur les eglises orientales et les chretiens/chretiennes dans le besoin, ou pour faire un don: www.cnewa.ca.