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( 8-9 October 2002 )

       Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", today ended a two day visit to the international humanitarian institutions in Geneva.

       The Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" is the office of the Roman Curia which is charged with realizing the charitable endeavors of the Holy Father and of bringing his assistance in areas of humanitarian disaster.  It is the principal liaison between the Holy See and the network of Catholic assistance and development agencies.  The visit was coordinated with the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the International Organizations in Geneva.

       At the UNHCR, Archbishop Cordes met first with the High Commissioner, Mr. Luud Lubbers, and his immediate collaborators.  After a short presentation of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" and its activities, Mr. Lubbers went on to do the same for the UNHCR.  UNHCR focuses on refugees and related internally displaced persons (IDPs), that is those IDPs sharing the same causes as refugees: dictatorship, wars, etc.  The number of such persons (refugees and related IDPs) under the attention of the UNHCR currently lies slightly below 20 million.  Its humanitarian work consists not only in the initial care-taking of people, but also in finding lasting solutions for them, and in empowering them to participate positively in society.

       Recent studies reveal how the USA management of immigration has helped its economic growth.  It was pointed out that while the USA managed its immigration by law, Europe did the same by culture, a difficult process which has not been able to grapple with the worrying and growing xenophobic tendencies.

       Further conversations were held with Mr. Pierre François Pirlot, in a discussion centered on humanitarian activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  In Afghanistan the task that lies ahead is that of the reconstruction of the country.  Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the German Diakonisches Werk are present in this work with a good standard of performance.  Muslim organizations are also active on the spot.  The future is however still risky.  The basic infrastructures concerning education and health are poor.  People, however, crave for education, parents as well as children.  This is a very positive sign.

       Water resources are perennially scarce in the area.  Much of the irrigation system has been destroyed in the conflict.  The central government is doing its best in a very difficult situation and deserves a great deal of support.

       Earlier in the day, a meeting took place with Mr. Christopher E. SOREK, Head of Communication Department, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.  Particular attention is paid by the Federation to good strategy and media relations especially in order to bring back to public awareness and to the agenda of donors disasters which tend to become slow-moving and forgotten.  Archbishop Cordes recalled the anthropology which lies behind helping and the place of religion in it.  According to him, religion should not be discarded as something which causes divisions, but should be recognized not only as something positive which can unify, but also as a most important element in the decisions of people.

       Finally on October 8th, there was a meeting with the Director and Staff of the International Catholic Migration Commission.  The Commission is particularly important at a moment in which the theme of migration is moving toward the center of international reflection.

       On October 9th, Archbishop Cordes visited the World Council of Churches, where he was received, in the absence of the General Secretary, by the Deputy General Secretary, Mr. George Lemopoulos.  Later, in a round table discussion with representatives of different sectors of the World Council, a common concern was expressed that often in development and assistance work religion is identified primarily as an obstacle, rather than as something which can contribute to building community.  Representatives of the counterpart agency of the World Council of Churches for humanitarian assistance, Action by Churches Together, came for lunch and an exchange of views at the Permanent Mission of the Holy See.

       Before leaving Geneva, Archbishop Cordes visited the Geneva International Catholic Centre and the Office of the United Nations for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA).