‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Mt. 25:40).
A message to the Maronite community in the US
By Bishop Elias Sleman of the Maronite Eparchy of Latakia, Syria
I cannot find the proper words that could describe the suffering inflicted on our beloved children—all of them, in particular the little babies and the distraught widows. It is very hard to witness the suffering of innocents, especially the suffering of the little children who are at a total loss.
Human dignity is being mutilated, families disintegrated, people seeking to leave the homeland due to the extreme dangers surrounding them. Not only people’s future is at serious risk, but, more importantly, their very life as well
The basics for daily survival are getting very scarce: heating fuel is found only on the black markets and—if found—at exorbitant prices; there is no clothing. Many escaped for their lives only with what they had on, leaving everything behind to be pillaged by the militants; no blankets, no heating—there are constant power outages; daily food has to be bought at outrageous prices. There is nothing left that would allow people to stay in their villages, in their homes.
Only those who live in areas untouched by violence have stayed in their homes. But even those are constantly exposed to the risks of sniper fire, bombs, and various threats by militants. They could face their death at any moment and in any place, even in their own home. They could be killed on the road, at home by a bomb, by a rocket, or by sniper fire. Death is a real threat and fear is their daily companion; there is thievery; and kidnappings seeking to extort money are a common occurrence; and even after the ransoms have been paid, the kidnapped are executed. Everyone feels exposed to all these dangers.
Our people used to live comfortably, but they don’t have money anymore. There is a serious need for funds, enough to help people stay in their homeland. Otherwise they would be forced to leave Syria behind and the country would lose the best of her own children who refused to get involved in the bloody violence. It is mostly Christians who refuse to kill and unfortunately themselves fall victim to the killers.
Our young generations have been turned from being upbeat and hopeful into de-motivated, desperate and deprived. All their hopes in life have been reduced to just staying alive. The sadness on the face of their parents overwhelms them and deprives them of enjoying one of their natural rights—their youth. Instead, they are forced to carry at a very early age the worries of adult life. The little ones are forced to trading their fun toys for war games and toy weapons, depriving them of their own innocence.
The priests in our eparchy are in no better condition. The resources of the eparchy have been depleted. They need to secure the survival of their families so that they can serve the parishioners. At this stage, there is no other opportunity for them to earn some income: there are no schools, no industries. They depend solely on the eparchy. Opportunities no longer exist, even for specialists. They share what little the parishioners still have. Those who have the capital and could invest—assuming they are even still in Syria—are afraid because of the country’s volatile position.
I need your help. I am speaking for them. They need your help, and I carry their cause. It is my religious duty to petition on their behalf. Christ is the one who entrusted them to me. You also belong to Him. It is in this spirit that I feel confident asking to help your brothers and sisters in Christ.
May our loving God overwhelm you with His blessings, and may He reward you by protecting your families. May he provide you with a happy and peaceful life, that is wide open with golden opportunities so that you and your children can live in dignity.
If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you! (Proverbs 19:17)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Sponsor a Translation into Arabic of the Wednesday Catechesis of the Pope:
Every Wednesday, during his General Audience, the Holy Father gives a short catechetical instruction to the assembled faithful at St. Peter’s Square in Rome. This instruction is also broadcast to the thousands of Catholics around the world who listen to these addresses on the radio or television, or who read them later in print. Each time he expounds a major aspect of the Christian faith and explains important theological issues. Now, there is a desire for this Catechesis to be translated into Arabic. Will you help?
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“So far, ACN is the only organization willing to help us in this field. Supporting the apostolate of these sisters is the largest single item in our budget, and apart from you we have no one we can turn to. Hence any help at all that you can provide for their support will be most welcome. I want to thank you for thinking of our needs and I pray every day for ACN and your generous benefactors, who are helping to ease the burden that our apostolate here inevitably involves.” These are the words of Bishop Luis M. Casey of the Diocese of Pando in Bolivia, who wrote to us to ask support for religious sisters in his area.
Deep in the rainforest, the remote Apostolic Vicariate of Pando in northern Bolivia lies in the flat lowland region of the Amazon basin. It is only very thinly populated, and the main thoroughfares are the navigable rivers. The one and only road linking the region with the rest of the country is not always passable in the rainy season. This is the context within which the 31 religious sisters of the vicariate have to carry out their apostolate.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
In Diocese of Byumba in Rwanda, seminarians are obliged to study at various different seminaries, both within Rwanda and also in neighboring Uganda. They serve in local parishes so that they can also gain practical pastoral experience and learn more about the work of a parish priest.
Last year, the Year of St. Paul, alongside the usual duties in the parishes, their work included the establishment and direction of Bible study groups.
But these determined seminarians need our help. The Diocese is trying to help all they can to financially help these young men with their formation, but much more is needed.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Next year the Caribbean School for Catholic Communication located in the Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad will be celebrating its 15th anniversary. During its history, 900 men and women from various different Caribbean countries have studied here, learning how to spread the Gospel through the help of the modern media. Starting in 2010, this will also include a diploma course in Pastoral Communication which will equip the participants to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ through films and television, radio, the Internet and the printed media.
In 2007 the Holy Father, Benedict XVI again urged ACN to give special support to the work of the Catholic media. We continue to do so. Will you help?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The Sisters of the community of the Handmaids of the Church in India help other women both spiritually and in the practicalities of life, including ways of earning a living and supporting their families, and they are also strongly involved in healthcare. This country, which is among the poorest in the world and where almost half the population is undernourished, such service is vitally important. Their model for everything they do is Our Lady, the “Handmaid of the Lord.”
We promised help for these Sisters. Will you help us to keep this promise?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
On May 12, 2007, during his trip to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in the Basilica of the Shrine of Aparecida and made it clear to the priests who serve God and their fellow men in such difficult conditions that he understands them and knows their difficult situation. He told them, “What great challenges, what difficult situations you have to face, with such generosity, self-denial, sacrifices and renunciations!
According to the Annuario Pontificio, the Pontifical Yearbook, the Diocese of Balsas, which lies in the south of the state of Maranhão and serves a territory of almost 26,000 square miles, has just 19 diocesan and 7 religious priests to serve a population of close to 180,000 Catholics. In an area twice the size of Maryland there are just 17 parishes, leaving an average area of around 1,500 square miles per parish. The priests have to travel vast distances, and many regions are almost inaccessible.
Despite all the challenges of being a priest in this area, there are still young men who are willing to follow the call of God. But they desperately need our help.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Bishop Armido Gasparini wanted to do something to involve young Ethiopian women more strongly in the Faith. As a result, a community of religious Sisters, the Handmaids of the Church, was founded in 1988 in the Ethiopian town of Awasa. Their purpose was to build up the Catholic Church and care for the spiritual growth of the faithful. Bishop Gasparini’s principal aim was to help young women and girls, who in their traditional culture had hardly any chance of getting a proper education. It all began with four young women who joined together to advance their education and who, four years later, were able to make their first solemn profession.
The Sisters of the community of the Handmaids of the Church now help other women both spiritually and in the practicalities of life, including ways of earning a living and supporting their families, and they are also strongly involved in healthcare. In a country like Ethiopia, which is among the poorest in the world and where almost half the population is undernourished, such service is vitally important and help is desperately needed.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )