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. This meeting runs from the 21st till June 24.
In a press release, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches laid out the schedule for the 4-day assembly. On June 21, the Prefect of the Congregation and President of ROACO, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, will preside over the opening Eucharist, 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 the Holy Land
At the Tuesday morning session, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mgr. Pierbattista Pizzabala, together with the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and the Vice-Chancellor of Bethlehem University, Fr. Peter Bray, will address “the situation in the Holy Land” and will give information about the Pro Terra Sancta collection for the year 2020.
Ethiopia, Armenia, Georgia
ROACO’s attention in the afternoon focuses on 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 severely malnourished, with over 400,000 people facing famine in the region.
This 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 shift their focus to the entire Middle East, concentrating mainly 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).