By Devin Watkins
The Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) begins its 94th plenary assembly on Monday afternoon at the Casa Bonus Pastor in Rome.
The annual meeting runs until Thursday.
Mass for donors
In a press release, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches laid out the schedule for the 4-day assembly.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation and ROACO’s President, will preside over the opening Eucharist on Tuesday, during which all the agencies donor 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.”
Concern for Holy Land
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 the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and the Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, Br. Peter Bray.
Participants will also be informed about the 2020 Collection Pro Terra Sancta.
Ethiopia, Armenia, Georgia
In the afternoon, ROACO’s attention shifts to the situation in Ethiopia, presented by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antoine Camilleri.
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.
Middle Eastern region
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 in Syria (Cardinal Mario Zenari), Lebanon (Archbishop Joseph Spiteri), and Iraq (Archbishop Mitja Leskovar).