Special collection to benefit Christians in the Middle East

BRAINTREE -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley approved a special collection to benefit Christians suffering in the Middle East, the Archdiocese of Boston announced Sept. 3.

"Cardinal Seán has authorized a special collection, to be taken the weekend of September 13-14 in all parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, to provide humanitarian relief and pastoral support for our affected brothers and sisters in the Middle East," Special Assistant to the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia Father Bryan K. Parrish said in a letter to all priests of the archdiocese.

The funds collected will be distributed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to Catholic Relief Services and other Catholic agencies working in partnership with the local church to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs facing the people in Iraq, Gaza, Syria and surrounding countries where refugees have fled in recent months.

"These organizations have well-established partnerships with the Catholic Church in the region which allows them to respond quickly and efficiently to victims in some of the hardest to reach areas," the letter said.

Funds will be used to support Church programs, to aid persecuted Christians, and to respond to rebuilding needs of Catholic dioceses in areas impacted by recent violence and turmoil.

In an Aug. 19 letter, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had requested that each diocese take up the special collection in the first half of September.

"It is with great concern for the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity, that I write to you today. Our Church mourns the terrible suffering of Christians and other innocent victims of violence in Iraq, Syria and Gaza who are struggling to survive, protect their children and live with dignity in dire conditions," Archbishop Kurtz explained in the letter.

"Our Christian brothers and sisters and other innocent victims of the violence in the Middle East urgently need the assistance of the Catholic community of the United States," Archbishop Kurtz wrote. "Thank you for your support of this special collection and for your continued prayers for the victims of this crisis."