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Vatican Connections: Friday, January 17

Alicia Ambrosio

Friday, January 17, 2014

If the war in Syria continues another year there will be no Christians left in the country, according to one bishop in the region.
Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo made the comment during a meeting of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, which is known by its Italian acronym ROACO.
As international leaders and government bodies fail to put an end to the ongoing conflict in Syria, people in that country are looking to the pope and the church to bring peace to the region, according to the director of a church aid agency working in the area.
Carl Hetu, the director of the Canadian office of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), attended several meetings at the Vatican that were focused on the situation in Syria, including the ROACO meeting and a brainstorming session hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Science.
Hetu told Salt and Light the session was meant to help Pope Francis and the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations organizations in Geneva formulate a better understanding of what is needed to end the Syrian conflict.  
Participants at the session said both Muslim and Christian Syrians are looking to the Vatican and Pope Francis as a moral authority that can guide the international community to a peaceful solution to Syria’s conflict, according to Hetu.
While the specific points submitted to the Holy Father are confidential, Hetu said participants agreed on three key elements: the need for an immediate ceasefire, the removal of any “pre-conditions” for negotiation, and an urgent need to stop weapons from coming into the country.
The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, will take part in a UN sponsored conference aimed at ending the conflict in Syria. His position is expected to reflect point brought up during the brainstorming session at the Pontifical Academy for Science.
Various Catholic aid agencies took part in the ROACO meeting to review the aid being given to Christians in the region.
“Catholic organization alone have given 80 million dollars since 2012,” Hetu said. Most of that money went to help people in Syria, some also went towards helping Syrians in Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
Hetu said most of the aid CNEWA provides is food. The food is distributed through local parishes and charities which are already on the ground. CNWA also helps stock schools, provides housing, healthcare and pastoral care to. While the organization focuses on helping Christians, CNEWA helps all refugees.

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