VATICAN - The Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) began its 94th plenary assembly on Monday, June 21, 2021, at the Casa Bonus Pastor in Rome. The annual meeting runs until Thursday.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation and ROACO’s President, will preside over the opening Eucharist on Tuesday, June 22, during which all the agencies’ donors will be prayed for.
The Mass also serves to entrust “to the Lord and the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God the progress of the scheduled sessions and especially countries which continue to suffer because of violence and social and political instability made worse by the ongoing pandemic.”
Tuesday morning’s sessions will be dedicated to the situation in the Holy Land, as well as ROACO’s work to assist people in the area.
Church leaders presenting on the topic include H.B. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, and Br. Peter Bray, Vice-Chancellor of Bethlehem University.
Participants will also be informed about the 2020 Collection Pro Terra Sancta.
On Tuesday afternoon, ROACO’s attention will shift to the situation in Ethiopia, presented by Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, the Apostolic Nuncio.
Ethiopia’s Tigray region saw a devastating conflict near the end of 2020 and into this year. The UN recently reported that Tigray is home to some 30,000 children who are severely malnourished, with over 400,000 people facing famine in the region.
The afternoon session will also focus on Armenia and Georgia, through an intervention from Archbishop José Avelino Bettencourt, the Apostolic Nuncio to both nations.
Whereas on Wednesday, participants in the plenary session will turn their focus to the entire Middle East, concentrating especially on Syria and Iraq.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, will speak at the assembly, along with the Pope’s representatives, Cardinal Mario Zenari in Syria, Archbishop Joseph Spiteri in Lebanon, and Archbishop Mitja Leskovar in Iraq.