12 December 2011
Msgr. John Kozar visits a patient in the Italian Hospital in Amman, Jordan.
After a full night of rest and a good breakfast, Father Guido and I were welcomed to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan by our host, Ra’ed Bahou, our regional director for Jordan and Iraq.
Our first stop was a large and historic hospital (in fact, the oldest) in the capital of Amman, which is known as the Italian Hospital, after the Italian missionary organization that founded it. Begun almost 80 years ago, and staffed for years by the Comboni Sisters from Italy, the Italian Hospital now stands as a refuge for the poor, and at the same time, a sparkling example of a very modern facility.
Much of the renewal and change is the work of the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, who have staffed it for the past four years. Five years ago, faced with the risk of losing the presence of sisters and the possible closure of this venerable institution, Ra’ed negotiated with this community of religious to come from Iraq to take over its management. Presently, there are four Dominican sisters working there, two Iraqis and two from Kerala, India. Their provincial house is in Baghdad.
The hospital has seen many changes, including a huge modernization program, much of which has come from the direct assistance of CNEWA’s Pontifical Mission office in Amman and in cooperation with other funding agencies. There is a dynamic spirit present here, revealing the close cooperation between the sisters and the very committed team of lay professionals. While grateful to CNEWA for our assistance, they share a strong desire to take on their share of responsibility in supporting themselves. They all made special mention that everyone is asked to pay something for the health care services rendered, even if almost nothing. And those who can afford to pay do so to help subsidize the poor. This formula seems to be working.
It was very uplifting to hear their testimony that they do not want charity, but just a little help, which allows them to lift themselves up.
One doctor put it this way: “We want to do our share, as this gives us our dignity.”
We left Amman for densely crowded Zerqa, where we had an appointment to visit the Mother of Mercy Clinic. Perhaps the word “clinic” is a misnomer; this facility teems with activity and offers a multitude of services to a huge number of poor, almost all of whom are Muslim.
I have to tell you, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who run the clinic, are dynamos and command tremendous respect by the hundreds who come each day. Though the facilities are old, humble and crowded, the service provided is exceptional. On a typical day, the dispensary or emergency room might see between 100-140 patients. Additionally, there may be hundred mothers with their infants lined up for vaccinations. There are only two full-time doctors on staff, but they are complimented very well by a trained group of nurses, technicians, midwives, assistants and other helpers who make the delivery of services something to behold. I think our huge mega-hospitals in North America could learn a thing or two with the efficient management style seen here.
But most of all, there is a loving spirit demonstrated by the four sisters who work here and the dedicated staff that collaborates with them. Ra’ed mentioned that most of the staff have been employed at Mother of mercy for many years, and while they could make greater sums elsewhere, they have made a commitment to stay and serve the poor.
Mother of Mercy is located right beside a huge Palestinian refugee camp, which houses about 80,000 inhabitants. You can imagine the volume of traffic to the clinic on some days, which lies within a compound that includes a parish church, dedicated to St. Pius X, and the parish school.
Another indicator of how beloved the sisters are is the fact that in every instance, save one, all the Muslim women with their children and infants felt very comfortable in allowing me to photograph them. Being cautious, I let one of the sisters accompanying me to ask their permission to take their photograph. I must tell you, the faces of both mother and child were prize-winning smiles, thanks to the sisters.
An extra treat was to join the sisters for lunch. We left the noisy clinic for the convent and were surprised to be welcomed at the door by Mother Maria Hanna, O.P., the superior general of this community, which is based in Iraq. What a sweetheart is Mother Maria. And imagine this, she has no home! Let me explain:
A few years back their motherhouse in Mosul, Iraq, was bombed and destroyed. Located in a city at the heart of recent extremist violence, the motherhouse was never rebuilt. They still have no place to call home, no center, not even a novitiate to house the young women who want to serve the community. So, Mother Maria travels from one home to another where her sisters are now working. Thanks be to God, the sisters are now located in other countries, two are even studying in Chicago. But Iraq is home, to be sure.
Mother and the sisters served us a magnificent meal, mostly Iraqi delicacies. The outstanding feature is what I would call a “rice loaf,” which was a huge baked loaf of rice, meats, some chopped vegetables and raisins (I’m told raisins are prominent in Iraqi dishes) with plenty of spices then wrapped with a thin type of bread that envelopes this huge loaf-like presentation. But the best part was watching Mother Maria serve it with a special “flip” of the crusty bread for your plate. What a great meal, what an inspiring leader of the church, what a lovely group of sisters.
After these pastoral visits, we headed to the offices of our Jordanian “family.” I felt so much at home with the warm welcome from each member of the staff. We barely sat down before they were serving us some Jordanian delicacies. Over our tea and coffee, we all agreed how important it is for us to heighten this special sense of family and unity between CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission.
I told them how appreciative I am for all they do on our behalf. And I thank all of you for making these wonderful works of charity possible in Jordan due to your generous gifts. God is good for giving us the opportunity and the blessing of helping the people here. And as they said many times today, “All we want is a little help — please God — so we can accomplish great things for ourselves.”
My dear friends, you have done just that. May God continue to bless you as models of coexistence and love.
Check out the video below from our visit to the Italian Hospital in Amman, Jordan.
10 December 2011
Tags: Jordan Health Care Msgr. John E. Kozar
Msgr. Kozar embraces a patient at the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross Hospital in Lebanon.
Today marks our last full day in this country of beauty and poverty, faith and conflict. Tomorrow, after we celebrate Holy Mass with Issam, his staff and their families in Beirut, Father Guido and I fly to Amman, Jordan. But first, let me catch you up on what we did yesterday.
Friday began with a climb by car of a mountain that hovers over the Beirut suburb of Jal el Dib to the mother house of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross. This is the same community of sisters who have hosted us at the Notre Dame du Puis Retreat Center.
My first impression upon arriving on the campus was the sheer number of buildings and the size of the layout. This isnt just a mother house, however, but a home for more than a 1,000 people with special needs, most of whom live out their lives with
these dedicated sisters and their superb staff. The government of Lebanon does not sponsor any facilities for those with mental and/or physical handicaps or those
with substance abuse addictions. But thanks God for these sisters, who identified a need and have reached out to these marginalized children of God, who are treated
with dignity, grace and love.
We spent some quality time visiting with many different groups of residents and were greeted warmly by most of the residents. In fact I was greeted with many hugs
from patients who told me, “I love you.” A warm greeting indeed!
Our most memorable visit was in an area for profoundly mentally challenged boys and men, some of whom have severely physical handicaps. There was a remarkable
sister who had a God-given ability to discern in the moans, groans or unabashed sounds of these patients ranging in age from 6 to 45 years a need for some type of
attention. She calmly reached out and gave them a little hug, a pat on the check, a little touch on the head, and their anxieties or fears went away. She did it so
instinctively and so calmly it might not have been noticed – she did it with love.
In the many other departments of this hospital we encountered loving patients and even more loving sisters and staff. And even in the very old sections of this
huge facility, everything was immaculately clean, as were all the residents.
A special highlight of this visit included a tour of a newly furnished museum that featured the founder of this order of women, Blessed Frere Jacques, who died in
1954 and was beatified in 2008. We had seen his face on huge posters all around Beirut, but now we could appreciate this saintly man by walking through the wonderful
display of his personal artifacts and all things connected with the process of his beatification.
CNEWA continues to be a part of this story of love that unfolds each day at the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross Hospital, especially through our sponsorship
program. Your support assists these dear sisters in sharing the love of God in a heroic way with these special children of God.
We left the sisters and their charges to visit a few recipients of our microcredit loan
program, which is quite successful. CNEWA makes available small sums of money to individuals seeking help to begin a small business or even to expand it. The
applicants are recommended to us by a parish priest and their loan is held by a local bank. In every instance, it is understood that these small grants (which range
from $1,000 to $10,000) are loans and must be paid back – this is not a welfare assistance program.
Our first visit was with a family who now have a grocery store in a teeming neighborhood. Sales seem to be doing well, as evidenced by the traffic in the brief
time we spent with them. They offered us a nice refreshing glass of juice as we milled around the store.
Our second stop along this microcredit tour was a visit with a woman who has grappled with the results of juvenile polio all her life. And in her words, as a
result of a miracle, she long ago snapped out of any depression or despair and decided to make something of her life. Now, thanks to a very modest loan, she has
published two catechetical books used in many schools and also a CD of music written by herself. Her gratitude was beautifully reflected when she gave me a copy of
her CD and her two books. I fibbed a little and told her this would inspire me to learn some Arabic!
Issam surprised us again with a side trip to the world famous Grotto at Jeitta, one of the wonders of the world. This cavern, as we would call it in North
America, has two levels. We walked on foot along a channel of clean cold mountain water over four miles. To traverse the lower level one boards a boat. The geologic
formations inside this cavern are spectacular – but I was disappointed I could not take a few photos to share with you: No photos are permitted inside the cavern.
From the grotto we headed to one of the refugee camps that have housed Palestinians since the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. This crisis prompted Pope Pius XII
to found the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, which the Holy Father asked my predecessor
several times removed at CNEWA, Msgr. Thomas McMahon, to head as its president. Once, there were three camps in Lebanon that housed Palestinian Christian families,
most of whom were from the Galilee. Dbayeh is the last camp in Lebanon to house Christian
refugees, almost all of whom are Catholic.
A camp is not what you might think, or at least what I thought before coming here. I conjured up a picture of refugees living in cardboard shelters or in tents.
Well, a camp is like a little city within the confines of another municipality, but the people have no rights, no citizenship, no legal recourse and little social
acceptance. The homes here in Dbayeh are very basic, even crude, but the people are most happy to be here instead of the other camps in the country, which are armed
and lawless, centers where a “survival of the fittest” mentality reigns.
We were engaged in a very lively discussion with members of the Dbayeh Camp steering committee. Unwanted in Lebanon, these folks cannot go back to their homeland
either. They live in a kind of limbo where they cannot travel – they have no passports – they cannot own land, work legally or even improve their homes without
permission (which is almost never given). We met two lovely Belgian Little Sisters of Jesus whose door is always open to the families living in there.
Pray for them, and thank you for your assistance to them. Since this camp opened in the early 1950s, our Pontifical Mission has supported them by building
an running a school – destroyed in the civil war – the parish church of St. George, as well as providing small grants for various community needs. It is a tough
existence for these families, many of whom still have the keys to their homes back in the Galilee.
Today, we left Beirut early and traveled south to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mantara, which is famous throughout the country. Legend has it that Jesus arrived in
the nearby biblical town of Sidon to meet his mother there, but she had to wait for him in a cave on a hilltop, now called called Mantara, which in Arabic means
“wait.” It is a natural cave and now houses a beautiful little chapel commemorating this visit by Mary. We greeted the parish priest and he invited us to step inside
the new shrine church, which is still under construction. We also enjoyed stopping at a magnificent overlook, which gave us sweeping views of the entire countryside
below. The largest Palestinian refugee camp was right below us; some 70,000 people live there.
From the shrine we traveled further south to the town of Tyre, one of the ancient biblical cities mentioned in the Gospels and had a delightful coffee with the
Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Tyre, Georges Bakhouny. His knowledge of the realities of war and conflict in Lebanon were most helpful to me in getting a
better grasp of what is a most complicated political, religious and social mix.
I was fortunate to accompany him in his car for a 45-minute drive to the village of Yaroun. What a big surprise to find about 80 people waiting in the chilly
outdoors for us in front of the parish hall. Father Guido and I were taken aback how these parishioners, some of whom had come from neighboring villages, were here
to greet us and thank us for the help that CNEWA has provided before, during and after the war of 2006.
Archbishop Bakhouny led us into the meeting hall and after some remarks by the pastor, I was invited to speak to the group. After my remarks, I invited them to
ask questions or make comments. Even the archbishop encouraged them to be open with me, even in his presence. Well, they were most kind in offering thanks to all the
CNEWA family and the solidarity that my visit meant to them. They also expressed the fear in each of them about their future, as it is increasingly more and more
difficult for them to remain there for a host of reasons that are too delicate to mention here.
They were most grateful that I listened and assured them that we would continue to do what is possible to assist them, not just with financial assistance, but
with technical help and always our prayers. I also told them I would return another time.
To end our visit in Yaroun, the parish priest and the archbishop took us to the church, which was shelled in the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006 and remains under
construction. CNEWA has assisted in covering some of the costs to furnish the church, especially the erection of the iconostasis that separates the sanctuary from
I feel a close bond with Archbishop Bakhouny, and have invited him to visit us in New York this coming May when he will be coming to the United States for the
first time to participate in an international congress in New Jersey. That would be a treat and an honor to host him at our residence. He, too, seemed very enthused
about this possible visit.
Several of our hosts at this village gathering left me with the same parting message: “Monsignor, please do not abandon us.” On your behalf, I assured them we
stand with them as one family in Christ. They gratefully accepted this pledge and I pass it along to you.
8 December 2011
Msgr. Kozar meets with the children of Blessed Sacrament Orphanage in Ain Warka, Lebanon.
After breakfast overlooking the sea high up on a hill in Beirut, Father Guido and I were escorted by our regional director, Issam Bishara, to the residence of the apostolic nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia. As nuncio, Archbishop Caccia directly represents the Holy Father in ecclesiastical matters to the state of Lebanon and to its Catholic hierarchy.
We were warmly received by His Excellency and had a very engaging conversation with him over a cup of tea. His understanding of the complexities of the religious and political realities in Lebanon, mixed with its history of civil war and occupation, could not fail to impress. The nuncio has visited North America several times and I invited him to visit again and to stay with us in our new residence in New York.
Our next stop was an amazing jump into the history of the church in Lebanon: Blessed Sacrament Orphanage. How could an orphanage place us in the context of church history? Well, our story begins with the construction of this castle-like edifice in the 1600s. Over the next 400 years, this structure has served a variety of purposes. But it is known for housing the first school in the area and later as the Maronite patriarchal chancery and seminary. Today, it is home to 80 girls, who are lovingly cared for by the Blessed Sacrament Sisters. For years, CNEWA has supported this excellent facility through our needy child sponsorship program.
We were warmly greeted by the present superior, Mother Francoise Doueihy, and a number of the other sisters. As we tried to meet everyone present, the grand entrance into the hall filled with singing, smiling and happy girls between the ages of 5 and 16. They welcomed us with some songs and dances, dressed patriotically in the colors of Lebanon: red, white and green, especially green, representing the famous cedars of Lebanon.
What a loving and lovable group of young ladies. I shared with them that the children of North America sent them their love and their prayers and they offered the same to all of our children back home. We had some real fun taking photos with all of them. Their radiant faces truly expressed the presence of Jesus on their faces and in their hearts. What a wonderful visit.
From the orphanage we headed to the Maronite Patriarchal Seminary, where we were greeted by Msgr. Maroun Aammar, rector, and other members of the faculty. After a brief tour of this architectural gem, we headed to the church for the Divine Liturgy. Yours truly was invited to be the celebrant of the liturgy in the Latin rite and in English. Msgr. Aammar explained that, since the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is the patronal feast day in the United States of America, it would be a good experience for the seminarians to be exposed to a Latin rite Mass.
The priests and seminarians were wonderful in assisting me to vest, since I did not know how to dress with Maronite vestments.
After Mass we joined the rector, faculty and seminarians in the dining hall for a lovely lunch. Plenty of food and even more smiles. I complimented the rector on the spirit of his seminarians. By the way, these young men are supported in their preparation for the priesthood by benefactors through CNEWAs seminarian sponsorship program. They warmly expressed their appreciation to their CNEWA friends and promised to continue to pray for all of you.
Our next stop, a visit with Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch. Patriarch Gregory is a very warm, humorous and lovable man. He enlightened me on some of the subtle differences between the various Eastern churches present in Lebanon and gave us some most interesting sketches of his own history and the dimensions of his ministry. As part of a brief tour of the patriarchal headquarters, he showed us the grand receiving room, which is a fixture at every patriarchate we have visited. He jokingly commented that his receiving room was not as nice as that of Maronite Patriarch Peter Bechara I told him his chairs were nicer and he laughed and said, You are right.
This evening, Father Guido and I will host the papal nuncio, a number of hierarchs, religious superiors and heads of Catholic agencies that cooperate with CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission in Lebanon. This will take place in a dining room here at our residence with the Franciscan Sisters. This is mostly a social gathering so that we might express our solidarity with them, since we otherwise do not have the opportunity to greet them during this first visit.
And with that, I thank you for what you allow CNEWA to do on your behalf in a far away place called Lebanon. As I continue to tell everyone I meet, even the children today at the orphanage, we are all one family, Gods family. So your family in Lebanon sends you their love. Check out a video from our visit below.
7 December 2011
A farmer from Deir el Ahmar in northern Lebanon discusses the reclamation of his fields with Msgr. Kozar and Kamal Abdel Nour, an engineer who manages projects in our Beirut office.
We have all heard the axiom “water is the stuff of life.” Father Guido and I spent today with a group of Maronite Catholic farmers in Deir el Ahmar, a village in northern Lebanon. Their lives have been changed by a water project engineered by the staff of the Pontifical Mission, CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East.
We left our Beirut residence in the warm morning sun and began what seemed like a never-ending uphill climb on windy roads. As we climbed we observed only rocky terrain and the temperature plummeted to freezing — I did not expect to find such radical extremes in climate.
On the other side of the mountains, we descended some 5,000 feet and met some members of a farming cooperative who couldn’t wait to show us their artificial lake and the success of their reclaimed land, which is now being planted with apple trees.
How could anyone farm on this land, I thought. Typically, 10 feet of snow blankets the area and just last week, the roads were blocked — we were lucky to get through.
About 15 years ago, our Beirut staff began working with these Maronite Catholic farmers who feared that, without new opportunities for their children, their farming community would collapse and their families would be dispersed.
Armed with initiative, a few loans and the ingenuity of our staff, the villagers built a lake about 7,000 feet above sea level. A vast area was lined with an artificial membrane, which sealed the soil and collected water from rainfall and melting snow. Our engineers then laid more than 10 miles of plastic pipe to channel water over a large area to help “reclaim” the land. Meanwhile, the villagers transported topsoil and planted fruit trees, especially hardy apple trees. It took two years to change this rocky terrain — devoid of any topsoil — into a fertile, thick blanket of deep (nearly 7 feet) dark topsoil. While the trees are already bearing fruit, they will reach maturity in another six years or so.
The change in Deir el Ahmar is significant. Thanks to our generous donors, our Beirut staff has provided a future for these farmers (who once grew hashish, the only plant hardy enough to grow in these severe conditions), enlivened the local economy and maintained a Christian presence in a land that has offered refuge to the followers of Jesus for more than a 1,000 years. Keeping together their families and their faith, they said to me, means more than anything.
The villagers also took us to see their new church, which remains unfinished but usable enough to celebrate the sacred mysteries. Though begun 11 years ago, the community is no hurry. They are determined to build it stone by stone. And it happens to be located right next to a newly “reclaimed” hectare of land. So, as the apples mature the church, too, will be completed.
From there we traveled over some rough terrain, often seeing the miles and miles of irrigation pipes that delivers the water down to the farms. We met a farmer considered the best of the best, and we enjoyed chatting with him as he pruned some of his trees, much like a barber giving a fine cut.
Expressing hospitality to visitors is important in the Middle East. And the lunch at the house of one of the leaders of the cooperative was fit for a king. Many times over the farmers and their wives expressed their thanks to all of you who support CNEWA for changing their lives and giving them the dignity of just being good Christian farmers. Their life is very hard work, but they do it lovingly and cooperatively. And, best of all, they are filled with faith.
I have to tell you, as wonderful as the food was at this banquet, all of which came from their own land and from their own hands, the best was one of their apples.
They all awaited for a sign from me about their apples: Did I like the taste? Was it as good as the apples in the United States? You bet it was! It was a County Fair Award-Winning Apple if I ever tasted one.
They were relieved and happy to get a thumbs up and a big smile.
I have a great appreciation of how water can change lives. I also have a better appreciation of how the human spirit can accomplish wonderful things with just a little bit of assistance. And that’s where CNEWA can really help make a difference in the lives of so many people. Just a little help can be enough to encourage people to do great things.
Next time you enjoy an apple, think of these great friends of ours in Lebanon. Pray for them as they certainly remember you, their benefactors, in their own.
By the way, we’ll end our day with these delicious apples. I brought back a few to our residence here in Beirut; they’ll be plenty for our meal tonight.
Below is a short video with some highlights of our day.
6 December 2011
Tags: Lebanon Msgr. John E. Kozar Beirut Water
Msgr. Kozar is greeted by a girl at the inauguration of Saint Moura multi-purpose hall, a CNEWA-supported project in Kobayat, Lebanon.
Msgr. John E. Kozar is the president of CNEWA.
Here is a report on a wonderful day of activities, centering on the longtime agricultural assistance given by CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission, to the Catholic community in Kobayat, a village in the northeastern part of the country.
After a full night of sleep, we headed out for a three-hour trip to the northeastern part of the country. As we traveled along Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast, our host, Issam Bishara, took us on a mini pilgrimage to an ancient shrine carved out of the rock.
Dedicated to Our Lady of the Light, the shrine is the fulfillment of a promise made in the fourth century to a pagan captain, whose ship was caught in the troubled seas. One of his sailors told him to pray to the Virgin Mary and she would intercede to God that he and all his shipmates might be saved.
And so it happened ... his prayers were answered, he embraced the Christian faith and built a shrine to Mary to honor the great gift bestowed on him.
We left our car in the parking lot of a more modern monastery and began walking to the shrine down a path carved into the rocky surface of this mountaintop. We arrived at a heavenly site: Far in the distance stood Lebanon’s snow-capped mountains, below us a beautiful sea with clarity and a blue to feast the eyes, and best of all a magnificent little chapel literally carved into the stone like a cave. We paused and prayed. In just a few minutes, we had made a mini retreat. [You can read more about this shrine in an article profiled in our magazine in 2000.]
On to Kobayat. Our first stop here was the olive processing mill that was running at full tilt, even though the olive season has just about ended. We were warmly greeted by the president of the cooperative association that oversees the pooled efforts of hundreds of farmers as well as by friends and coworkers.
As the machinery hummed along, our hosts took us on a simple tour. They demonstrated how bags of olives brought in from outlying farms were sent through a series of machines and ended up a high quality olive oil. Needless to say, we had to each try a sample of the work.
What touched me the most about this operation and all the workers involved was their pride and appreciation to CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission for the abiding confidence placed in them and in their hard work. And, as Maronite Catholics, they expressed their gratitude that work such as this helped keep their faith-filled community alive.
Msgr. Kozar visits a local market in Kobayat, Lebanon.
Our next stop was an impressive market center. This multipurpose center, built with the assistance of CNEWA, gives area farmers a well-situated venue to sell their produce, to store it in a clean and refrigerated environment, and a meeting area where agricultural and business professionals offer the farmers classes and presentations on new techniques of farming and management and marketing for their products. It was a special treat to witness customers coming in from the highway and buying local produce, and what a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables! Fresh has taken on new meaning — eat your hearts out supermarkets back home.
After visiting, we went to the parish church in the village of Martmoura, which is dedicated to an early Christian martyr named Moura. There, the parish priest and his parish committee warmly greeted us and escorted us into church to concelebrate with him the Divine Liturgy. For me, it was a special honor to concelebrate the Maronite eucharistic liturgy, or Qorbono in ancient Syriac, which was conducted in French, with some elements in Arabic and Syriac.
Now this is important: Perhaps the most impressive moment of the day during this pastoral visit with my farming friends was how important it was that we gather at the altar. The Eucharist was the focal point of their lives, and defines who they are as Maronite Catholics.
The underlying support of CNEWA all these many years has preserved this Catholic Christian farming community in the heart of the Middle East. Without the seed monies shared with them, and the abiding moral and technical support given to them, many would have fled, abandoning all that they knew in order to remain good farmers and good Christians.
They are grateful that we — and by this I mean our CNEWA family worldwide — have helped them to maintain their ancient Christian community.
After the liturgy we had a brief tour and a formal opening of a newly constructed parish multipurpose hall. Wouldn’t you know that the ladies had some delicious sweets ready for us and we toasted this “grand opening” and happy occasion with our glasses in hand.
But our hosts had one more treat for us: A never-ending meal with too many courses and plates to count. The food was superb, but the company was the best. Now that I have family in Kobayat, I promised to return. And, dear friends don’t forget, they are also part of your family.
Tomorrow, we travel East for another rural visit and more families to meet.
Below is a short video with a few highlights from our day.
5 December 2011
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Middle East Msgr. John E. Kozar
CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, meets with Ignatius Joseph III, Syriac Catholic
patriarch of Antioch.
Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, began his pastoral visit to the Holy Land today. His first stop: Lebanon. He met with Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III, who assured Msgr. Kozar of his continued prayers and support as he begins his first journey to the Holy Land. Late today, Msgr. Kozar e-mailed us his first impressions of his trip:
What a wonderful first day in Lebanon — hard to believe this is my first visit to this part of the world. I say this because everyone thus far has made me feel so much at home and as part of the Lebanese church.
I think Father Guido Gockel, Issam Bishara and I set a Guinness Record by visiting four patriarchs in one day.
We began by meeting the Syriac Catholic patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Joseph III, who had spent many years in our region as a bishop in New Jersey. He warmly welcomed us and showed us some very poignant reminders of the ugly civil war that had gutted this small nation. This was evidenced by the remnants of shelled buildings standing in the shadows of newly constructed buildings. He told us how as a young priest he would run between the chancery and the cathedral, hoping not to be shot by snipers armed and ready to kill.
He also sends special greetings to all his many friends in the greater New York area.
On to a visit with the Armenian Catholic patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX, who invited about a dozen chancery officials, clerical and lay, to share with us their roles in the administration of the Armenian Catholic Church. It was a good time for sharing and for me personally to continue to get a fuller picture of the political and religious realities in Lebanon.
On our next stop we visited with some religious women who represented congregations that are especially active in collaborating with CNEWA: These are the women on the “front lines” in offering help to the poor. The discussions were very open and frank, and I especially appreciated how they portrayed the significant and very frustrating challenges in giving service to the poor. The government does not have any public child care institutions and relies on the Catholic Church to fulfill this need, promising to reimburse it for her service. But there is no reimbursement. The need for assistance is most compelling, and this also applies to clinics and hospitals and services to special needs groups.
Our visit with Aram I, the Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia, was very warm. He is a graduate of Fordham University in New York and speaks glowingly of his time in New York. Father Guido and I each received copies of his recently authored books and he promised to visit us next October when he comes to the United States.
The crowning jewel of the day was a dinner with the Maronite patriarch of Antioch, Bechara Peter Rai. Before being greeted by His Beatitude, I was interviewed by members of the press. Afterward, we were taken to the chapel to greet the patriarch. There, we had a big surprise: With him was a line of special ecclesial dignitaries that included the patriarch emeritus, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir; the bishop of Beirut; the patriarchal vicar general, Archbishop Paul Sayah, a good friend from the recent visit of the patriarch to New York and five other bishops.
We were all warmly escorted to the dining room to join the patriarch in a lovely dinner. The mood was totally upbeat and the patriarch was in rare form. After dinner, we retired to the formal receiving room for tea. The patriarch noted that in the very chair in which I was sitting he sat when he was called in to be told that he had been elected patriarch of the Maronite Church. Cardinal Sfeir was also in good humor and I made a point of brushing off his comment that he is now old and invited him to come to New York, where he would feel young again.
Considering Father Guido and I only arrived at 2:30 this morning, we certainly had a full day, and a very happy one. I already feel at home in Lebanon.
Tomorrow, I want you to join us as we go on a long trip to the countryside to meet some special farmers who are part of our CNEWA family.
*Editor’s Note: Msgr. Kozar is in the Holy Land as part of his first pastoral visit to the region as president of CNEWA. Traveling with him is CNEWA’s vice president for the Middle East, Father Guido Gockel.
In Lebanon, he is joined by CNEWA’s regional director for Lebanon and Syria, Issam Bishara. They will be joined by Ra’ed Bahou, our regional director for Jordan and Iraq, while in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In Israel and Palestine, the team will be joined by our regional director there, Sami El-Yousef.
Also today, he met with the Pontifical Mission staff in Beirut, and with a number of sisters, lay people and religious who are carrying out CNEWA’s work. Below is a brief audio clip from the meeting in which he shared his enthusiasm and excitement:
Tags: CNEWA Middle East Msgr. John E. Kozar