Archbishop Paul S. Coakley
Early this month, Pope Francis summoned his papal nuncios (ambassadors accredited by the Holy See) stationed in the Middle East for an emergency meeting at the Vatican. They met from Oct. 2-4. Their purpose was to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, especially the plight of Christians in that ancient land that gave birth to the Christian faith. The Christian population has plummeted in recent years as Christians have borne a disproportionate share of the burden in a region rife with conflict and a host of humanitarian crises.
From Oct. 7-12, I had the privilege of traveling to the Middle East with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). We visited Gaza, Jerusalem and the Kurdish region of Iraq. Our purpose was to observe, to listen and to learn from local church leaders, government officials and aid partners. But most importantly, we were there to put a face on a human tragedy and to demonstrate the solidarity of the Church in the United States and all Americans with our brothers and sisters who, regardless of their creed or ethnicity, are caught up in a crisis of catastrophic proportions.