Panel Worried Over Eastern Catholics

Small Churches in Difficult Environments Need Aid, Officials Conclude

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 29, 2007 ( A committee of experts on Eastern Catholic Churches says that many of these communities lack the means to guarantee their subsistence.

Societies for Aid to the Eastern Churches met in the Vatican last week to focus on Churches in Lebanon, the Holy Land, Romania and Egypt. The committee is part of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Archbishop Antonio Veglio, the secretary of that dicastery, told Vatican Radio: “We are very worried about the Church” in Lebanon, “along with that of the Holy Land … because of the phenomenon of emigration.”

“Catholics, Christians, do not see much of a future for their lives in these countries. And then a continuous hemorrhage takes place which makes the Christian presence diminish ever more,” he added.

Vatican Radio noted that in Egypt, the population of 75 million is 90% Muslim, 9% Orthodox Coptics, and 1% other Christians, including Catholics who number between 250,000 and 300,000 faithful.

Coptic-Catholic Patriarch Antonios Naguib took part in the meeting.

More than material

Archbishop Veglio highlighted that the needs of these Churches are more than material adding that there is also the need “relative to the continuous dialogue with the Coptic-Orthodox” and, as regards the relationship with Muslims, “the need to propose, carry out and develop a dialogue.”

According to Monsignor Robert Stern, chairman of the pontifical mission for Palestine and secretary-general of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association: “All (these) Churches are so small that they do not have the means necessary to guarantee their own existence.

“External aid is always needed to enable them to continue with their work, the formation of the clergy and that relating to health, education, but also to support the parishes themselves.”

Societies for Aid to the Eastern Churches was formed in 1968 and meets twice a year. It embraces agencies worldwide that help the Eastern Catholic Churches.

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