the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches celebrated Mass and then opened the work of the network of organizations that support the ecclesial communities of the Middle East and Africa: almost 300 projects financed, several destined to tackle the pandemic
by Nicola Gori
Pulmonary ventilators, analysis kits, material for the prevention and containment of infections in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey and Ukraine, for a total of 19 projects and more than half a million euros allocated directly by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches (Cec). To these are added another 298 projects in 22 countries thanks to the coordination and information activity carried out by the secretariat of the Reunion for the Eastern Churches Aid Works (Roaco), for a total of over nine million euros. These are the data presented by the Cardinal Prefect Leonardo Sandri, this morning, Tuesday 22 June, in the opening speech for the 94th plenary assembly of Roaco, which takes place in Rome in the Bonus Pastor house until the 24th.
With regard to health equipment, these are aid granted through the Cec emergency fund, in the year 2020, to meet the problems and economic difficulties created by the covid-19 pandemic. It is an emergency intervention tool that arose by drawing on the reserve of the Holy Land Fund to guarantee some appropriations. It is, he added, a “drop in the ocean of need, but still a precious relief for many brothers and sisters”.
The cardinal recalled the aid that had been presented to Pope Francis at the end of the Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia. Many requests reach the Dicastery. From India, the prefect said, in particular from two Catholic hospitals in New Delhi and Trichur, comes “the cry for help for oxygen systems for covid patients whose growth in the country, as we know, has soared in the last period “. The pandemic, “a reality still far from being eradicated in many of the countries under the jurisdiction of the Dicastery, certainly marked the year 2020, preventing our usual meeting in June, but it did not stop, indeed it increased charity and solidarity concrete “. In fact, he pointed out, “we have been able to force some statutory limits, intervening in emergencies that are usually managed by organizations such as Caritas”.
Unfortunately, according to the cardinal’s analysis, there was not only the pandemic this year: “On August 4, the echo of the terrible explosion in the port of Beirut rebounded on our televisions and cell phones, further marking a country already in knee due to the social crisis, the immobility of a policy aggravated by internal divisions of the various camps, by the opposing blackmail of the regional powers, as well as at times by an authentically evangelical ecclesial witness that is not always up to par “. A few months earlier, the prefect recalled, there was the Pope’s initiative “to guarantee scholarships to various students, especially those of the small schools still open in the villages.” More generally, the pandemic has slowed down some dynamics of the Church in Lebanon: “Some religious orders have postponed the celebration of the general chapters, as well as the Synods of the patriarchal Churches have at least been delayed”. Regarding Syria, the cardinal added that “it is urgent to start reconstruction, but the international chessboard is still blocked, while the people are hungry”. With regard to the situation in the Holy Land, Palestine, Israel and Jordan, the cardinal referred to two particular points: the state of the American University of Madaba, and that of Bethlehem University. In 2020, the Collection of the Holy Land, he underlined, “sharply halved its collection, a factor that worries and that over time will ask for a resizing of ordinary and extraordinary subsidies and the scholarship system”.
The situation in Ethiopia due to the conflict in the Tigray region is of concern, added the prefect: “the lacerations of the internal fabric are strong”. Sandri then announced that next October there will be the plenary session of the Dicastery and the conference for the 25th anniversary of the Instruction The incomprehensible Father on the application of the liturgical prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
Previously, Cardinal Sandri had presided over the Eucharistic celebration, in which he explained that “we must always live the experience of Roaco as a moment of amazement and humility, trusting above all in the Lord and in his closeness before our strengths, projects and resourcefulness “. Moreover, he added, “God calls us to serve him every day and to be collaborators in his work of salvation by lending our help to the life of the Eastern Catholic Churches”. Their existence, despite the changed conditions of the time, “is all the more precious the more we are aware that the Word which is the source of life came to us two millennia ago from those lands”.