Church Mobilizing to Help Ethiopia, Eritrea and Middle East

ROACO General Assembly Under Way in Rome

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2003 ( Drought and privation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the turbulence in the Middle East are the priorities of this week’s meeting of the Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches (ROACO).

The organization, a dependence of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, is holding its general assembly in the Vatican.

ROACO embraces aid agencies of several countries, committed to giving financial support to Catholic communities of the Eastern rite, as well as to some countries of North Africa, the Mideast and Asia, including Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among those participating in this assembly are the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, as well as Catholic agencies of Europe.

Both Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, apostolic nuncio in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, described to the assembly the enormous difficulties facing these countries.

Monsignor Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro, ROACO secretary, told Vatican Radio that the people need immediate help, including water, food and clothes, «so that Christian communities will not only be allowed their own aid, but that bishops will be able to help the faithful who are in need.»

There are also other projects, «such as aqueducts, the construction of mobile kitchens and other household goods,» he added.

Information on the Mideast is being provided by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio in Israel, and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine.

Father Giovanni Battistelli, Custos of the Holy Land, has been asked to give data on the works of a social nature in which the Franciscan Custody is involved, especially projects to provide homes for young Christian couples who might otherwise have to leave the holy land.

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