Catholic Church in Armenia with ‘Big Heart’ Offers Services to Refugees

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Currents News Staff

The Emili Aregak Center for children with special needs, in Gyumri, is one of many pastoral and humanitarian projects spearheaded by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Caritas Armenia

Michael La Civita, CNEWA’s communications director, spent some time in Armenia in early June assessing the organization’s response to the country’s numerous challenges. One of these is continuing to meet the needs of thousands of families who were displaced by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020.

“It was a difficult experience to see people who once had something and now who have nothing,” La Civita said. “Basically live in dormitories that are substandard, who would have nothing to eat, who would have nothing to drink, who would have nothing on their backs to wear, if it wasn’t for the Church, the local Catholic Church and other small groups assisting them.”

La Civita explains that the Catholic Church in Armenia offers assistance to refugees, not only from Nagorno-Karabakh, but from Syria as well. He says that although the Church is small and lacks resources, “it has a big heart and big spirit.”

“Faith is an important component of their lives. And perhaps that will be what carries them through,” La Civita said. “But [the war] has torn open their hearts and some old wounds. Many of these people lost their family in the genocide, which was 100 years ago.”

On June 24, La Civita, attended an audience the Pope held with representatives of organizations dedicated to supporting the Eastern Churches.

“He ended the audience with a visual that I remember quite well: when he visited Armenia in 2016,” La Civita said. “He and the Catholicos together released some doves as a sign of peace.”

It’s a vision of peace that has yet to be fulfilled. But the combined efforts of local churches and organizations like Caritas and CNEWA are a step in the right direction.