My guests in the interview segment this weekend are Swiss-Indian filmmaker and producer, Kamal Musale and co-producer and actress Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz who portrays Mother Teresa in the film “Mother Teresa And Me.”   This is Part II of our conversation in Rome (Part I aired last weekend).

As the film’s website says, “This is a story about love and compassion inspired by the life of Mother Teresa, a story about Teresa and Kavita: two women’s lives – passionate and uncompromising – woven over generations by two intertwined stories. Both women achieve their vocation in spite of serious personal doubts.”

It is truly a riveting story about life and death, dignity and deprivation.

The film was selected as this year’s winner in the Mirabile Dictu International Catholic Film Festival, founded in 2010 by producer and filmmaker Liana Marabini, to honor producers, filmmakers, documentaries, docu-fiction, TV series, short films and programs “that promote universal moral values and positive models.”

 MIRABILE DICTU is a Latin phrase meaning “wonderful to relate.”

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


EWTN’s “Roman Nights” consists of a series of periodic gatherings that brings together in Rome people of many backgrounds to discuss topics pertinent to our faith lives today. Each gathering features a specific topic for discussion and invited guests as speakers. The public is always invited to attend these Roman Nights that take place in different locations around the Eternal City.

Each edition is feature on EWTN at a later date, including editions of “Vaticano.”

The theme chosen for last night’s May gathering was “Charity Within the Church and Given by the Church,” a theme that sought to answer the big questions that the contemporary world poses to the Church in today’s often turbulent world.

Guest speakers included Ambassador Antonio Zanardi Landi of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the Holy See, Dr. Alessandro Pernigo, member of the Board of Directors for the Bio Medico University Campus of Roma, and Fr. David Hulshof, director of Apostolic Formation and Formation Advisor at the Pontifical North American College. Moderator was EWTN Rome bureau chief Andreas Thonhauser.   It was a fascinating conversation!

And here’s where it all took place! Inside this historic palazzo  and yes, overlooking the ancient Roman Forum! We had refreshments on the stunning rooftop covered terrace, and continued conversations on charity, the talks we heard earlier, the Church, and life in Rome in general (like an evening overlooking history!)

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A little bit of history (House of the Knights of Rhodes and San Giovanni Battista Chapel Rome. (

The House of the Knights of Rhodes is located in the Forum of Augustus in the Monti district of Rome. It houses the antiquarium of the Forum. The Giovanni Battista dei Cavalieri di Rodi Chapel is also located inside the building. It can only be visited with a guided tour.

The House of Rhodes used to be the seat of the Roman Priory of the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (Priorato romano dell’ordine dei Cavalieri di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme). It was also known as the House of the Knights of Rhodes and of Malta.

The Knights have been housed in the building, which stands on top of ancient Roman constructions, since the 12th century. In 1566, when the Knights moved to the Aventine Hill, the Sisters of the Santissima Annunziata took over the building.

The adjacent convent was destroyed in 1930 to allow for excavations in the Forum of Augustus.

Between 1930 and 1945 the house was owned by the city of Rome, but after the war it reverted to the hands of the Maltese Knights.

The central part of the house is covered by a barrel vault and was transformed into the Cappella di San Giovanni Battista (Chapel of John the Baptist) in 1946.

One of its doors opens onto the portico-lined atrium of the Forum of Augustus.




Congratulations to His Most Eminent Highness, Fra’ John Timothy Dunlap who was elected today as the 80th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta!

We first met a year ago last May when I was in New York for the Path to Peace Foundation gala dinner that honored King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan.

Not long afterwards, specifically on June 13, 2022, the Holy Father appointed Dunlap Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Order. We have corresponded between his visits to Rome and now, as of his election today, it seems he will be spending more time in the Eternal City!

I have been trying to get on the website of the Order of Malta but I think they are updating the page with today’s news as I could not access it. I am sure the Order of Malta worldwide is rejoicing, but especially Canada and the U.S.

In any case, here are some photos (I cannot find the pictures from the Path to Peace dinner!)

I send congratulations but also assurances of prayers on this momentous occasion!

Dunlap was born in OttawaOntario, Canada.He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Ottawa and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Western Ontario. He also studied at the University of Nice. Dunlap is admitted to the New York State Bar Association and the Ontario Bar Association.In 1986 he joined the New York legal firm Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller.He became a partner in 1993. He specializes in corporate and immigration law.He is legal advisor to the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. Read more here: John T. Dunlap – Wikipedia



Those who follow me regularly know of my many trips to Hawaii and my love of the islands and their history, the many friends I have there and how I am involved in promoting the cause of canonization of Joseph Dutton, a layman who for 44 years worked alongside Sts. Damien and Marianne Cope in caring for victims of leprosy on Kalaypapa, Molokai. I read this article today and it is one of my favorite stories of the islands, once the Kingdom of Hawaii. I thought you might enjoy reading about an amazing and beautiful princess who was, among many things, a wonderful surfer. The Tragic Life and Global Legacy of the Last Hawaiian Princess – Atlas Obscura


It’s been an interesting few days here from the point of view of a few nominations made by Pope Francis because two of the people named this week I know: Fr. Mark Lewis (no relation), SJ, was named the new rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, to take office on September 1, and Fra’ John Dunlap named the new Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta.

THE GREGORIAN – In May 2021, I had a long, wonderful visit at the Greg, as the Gregorian is known here in Rome, with Fr. Mark and interviewed him for “Vatican Insider.” At the time he was vice rector for Academics at this Jesuit-run university in Rome. We had an in-depth conversation about his work, how the Greg dealt with the pandemic – everything from classes online requiring all new technology to turn-styles that measure the temperature of those entering the university. I also asked him why he thought Pope Francis was the first ever Jesuit to be elected to the papacy when cardinals of other orders – Dominicans, Franciscans, etc – had been elected. And much, much more! (Gregorian photo)

ORDER OF MALTA – John Dunlap and I became acquainted at the May dinner in New York of the Path to Peace Foundation that honored King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan. The Foundation is associated with the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, and John is on the organizing committee for this annual event. We’ve corresponded since that dinner and since his arrival in Rome in late May, and yesterday I sent my congratulations for his nomination. (Malta photo)

Although the information was public on Monday, only today did the Vatican release a statement about Fra’ John Dunlap’s nomination by the Pope as Lieutenant to the Grand Master of the Order of Malta.

That press release stated that, “in this moment made difficult also following the premature death of the Lieutenant of the Grand Master Fra’ Marco Luzzago, Pope Francis has therefore established the appointment of the new Lieutenant of the Grand Master in the person of Fra’ John Dunlap, who will collaborate closely with the Special Delegate, His Em. Card. Silvano Maria Tomasi, C.S., in the preparation of the Extraordinary General Chapter.”

John Dunlap is one of the elected members of the current Sovereign Council of the Order.

It was also noted that “between the end of August and the first days of September the Pope will convene a meeting of the Joint Working Group for further communications on the upcoming celebration of the Extraordinary General Chapter.”

More to come …….




Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni said in a statement today that, “In consideration of the current health emergency situation, the Holy Father has established that, for this year 2020 the Peter’s Pence collection, which traditionally takes place around the June 29th solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, be transferred worldwide to the 27th Sunday of ordinary time, that is, October 4, the day dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi.” 


The Holy See Press Office this afternoon released Pope Francis’ telegram for the death this morning of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, His Eminent Highness Frà Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto. The message was sent to the ad interim Lieutenant of the Order, Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo Do Valle Peixoto de Villas Boas. (photo: EWTN Daniel Ibanez)

Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the entire Order of Malta for the death of “such a zealous man of culture and faith. I remember his faithful allegiance to Christ and the Gospel, combined with the generous commitment to exercise his office for the good of the Church with a spirit of service, as well as his dedication to those who suffer the most. As I share your pain, I pray for the respèose of his soul and invoke eternal peace for his soul with divine goodness.” 

Vatican news posted this story earlier today:


Once again, Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace, accompanied by monsignors from the Secretariat of State who translate his weekly catechesis into summaries in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish.

“Today,” noted Francis, “we conclude our catechesis on the Beatitudes with the final Beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.”

The Pope explained that, “all the attitudes contained in the Beatitudes, when lived for Christ, can lead to oppression by the world; yet ultimately this persecution is a cause of joy in heaven. The way of the Beatitudes is an Easter path, leading us from selfishness to a life guided by the Spirit. We see this in the saints who show that the experience of persecution can set the Christian free from worldly compromise.”

The Holy Father went on to say that, “Tragically, today many of our brothers and sisters still face persecution, and we express our closeness to them. May we too always remain ‘salt of the earth’, lest by losing the ‘taste’ of the Gospel we lead others to disdain it.”

“By God’s grace,” concluded Pope Francis, “whatever trials we do face can draw us to become more like Christ, who leads us to new life. In this manner, following the humble way of the Beatitudes, we will come to experience the kingdom of heaven: our greatest joy and happiness.”

In greeting to the Italian-speaking faithful, Francis said, “Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, co-patron of Italy. This great figure of a woman drew from communion with Jesus the courage of action and that inexhaustible hope that supported her in the most difficult hours, even when everything seemed lost, and allowed her to influence others, even at the highest civil and ecclesiastical levels, with the strength of his faith. May her example help each one to know how to unite, with Christian coherence, an intense love of the Church with an effective concern for the civil community, especially in this time of trial. I ask Saint Catherine to protect Italy during this pandemic; and to protect Europe, because she is the patron saint of Europe so that it remains united.

Catherine of Siena was born March 25, 1347 in Siena, Tuscany, and died April 29, 1380 in Rome. She was canonized in 1461. On April 13, 1866, Pope Pius IX declared Catherine a co-patroness of Rome. On June 18, 1939 Pope Pius XII named her a co-patron saint of Italy along with Saint Francis of Assisi. She was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970 and a patron sai
nt of Europe in 1999.



A briefing was held at the Holy See Press Office this morning to summarize the 18th meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals that ended a three-day meeting that began Monday, February 13.

Press office Vice Director Paloma Garcia Ovejero noted that Pope Francis was not present for the second part of the Monday morning meeting because of the ad limina visit of the of Costa Rica. He was absent this morning due to the weekly general audience but will be present at the afternoon session of the C9. Following is the summary of this week’s meetings:


On Monday and Tuesday the Cardinals concelebrated Mass with the Pope.

Following their first meeting on February 13, the Cardinals released the following statement through the Holy See Press Office:

The Council of Cardinals began its eighteenth session today.

At the beginning, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the group, after greeting the Holy Father, thanked him on behalf of all the Members for his words in the Christmas address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2016, acknowledging his encouragement and guidance for the work of the Council. In relation to recent events, the Council of Cardinals pledges its full support for the Pope’s work, assuring him at the same time of its adhesion and loyalty to the figure of the Pope and to his Magisterium.

The working sessions of the Council’s meeting took place each morning from 9:00-12:30, and each afternoon from 16:30-19:00; and were dedicated to further considerations concerning the different curial dicasteries. In particular, they continued the discussion on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide), the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

The cardinals also began their examination of the “Diakonia of Justice,” and thus considerable time was dedicated to the tribunals: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura, and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

During the meetings, the Council also studied the process for the selection of candidates to the Episcopate.

Cardinal George Pell reported on his work at the Secretariat for the Economy, entrusted to him for the full realization of the economic reform requested by the Holy Father, with particular attention to the activity of personal formation and human resources.

The prefect for the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, presented the current state of the reform of the communications of the Holy See, or the unification of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center in the dicastery entrusted to him. Meetings have been initiated with the Secretariat of State, the Secretariat for the Economy, APSA, and the Labor Office to accompany this new phase of the reform. Further, the plan for restructuring Vatican Radio frequencies, and the new policies for the world of social networks were presented. Finally, there was a reflection on the project for the beginning of the reform of the Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals will take place April 24-26, 2017.


The Pope’s Wednesday morning meeting with the faithful took an interesting turn today when Pope Francis, before the start of the weekly audience in the Paul VI Hall, met separately with a group of indigenous attending the Third Indigenous Peoples’ Forum convened by IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Noting that they have have come together “to identify ways of giving greater economic empowerment to indigenous peoples,” Francis said: “I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories. (photo:


He went on to say, “This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth. In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail, as foreseen in Article 32 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict.”

Those words were seen as indirect criticism of the Trump administration’s plan, over opposition from Indian groups, to allow the building of the multi-billion dollar Dakota oil pipeline. The Vatican has said this is not the case, according to media reports.

Later, in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father continued his weekly catechesis on Christian hope, saying that God’s peace, God’s love for us, remains with us, no matter what, even in fears, sufferings and disappointment. “Christian hope then is not based on who we are or what we are capable of, but on God’s love for each one of us. May we be instruments of hope, so that our greatest boast will be of a Father who excludes no one, but opens his home to all. And may we be a people who sustain one another with this message of Christian hope.”


CARDINAL RAYMOND BURKE HAS BEEN SENT TO GUAM to oversee a Church trial that is investigating accusations of sexual abuse by Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana. The former head of the Church’s supreme court, the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the patronus of the Order of Malta, arrived today in Guam and will start meetings with witnesses Thursday morning. Cardinal Burke will preside a five-member “tribunal of the first instance” that was set up for this case last fall. Four other bishops acting as judges are also members of this tribunal. When Abp. Apuron, who claims he is innocent of the charges made as long ago as the 1970s, refused to resign, Pope Francis named a former Detroit auxiliary bishop as coadjutor, giving him full authority over the archdiocese. Bishop Michael Byrnes was named to this post last October by Pope Francis. Prior to that appointment, Pope Francis had named Abp. Savio Hon Tai Fai, secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization, to oversee the Catholic Church on Guam.

ORDER OF MALTA GOVERNING COUNCIL TO CONVENE APRIL 29 TO ELECT NEW GRAND MASTER – The electing body will meet in the Order’s Magistral Villa in Rome. On 29 April the Council Complete of State, the Order’s constitutional body, will elect the next Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta (or, as provided for in the Constitution, a Lieutenant of the Grand Master, to hold office for a year). Following the resignation of the 79th Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, on 28 January, the government of the Order of Malta – the Sovereign Council – met this morning in Rome, and established the April date.


Two good news stories:

Yesterday, February 2, technicians from the Vatican Museums were in Norcia to take a number of valuable works of art that had been damaged in the recent earthquakes back to the museums for restoration.

A second piece of good news for the earthquake-struck peoples and towns was that the drawing was held yesterday for the papal raffle, and the entire sum brought in by the sale of the 10 euro tickets will be given to Pope Francis who has designated the populations struck by the quakes, in particular the homeless, as recipients of the monies.

My final story of the day (see below) is a phone interview with Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, northern Iraq, published by Crux. As you may know from reading my column,  Archbishop Warda and I are good friends: we met in Iraq in 2010 and I attended his episcopal ordination.  This is a very lengthy but very lucid and fascinating look at the situation of refugees, life in Erbil, ISIS, the work of the Church vis-à-vis migrants and refugees and a look at how the archbishop sees and understands President Trump’s executive order on refugees. A real eye-opener.


In a manner of speaking, I will visit the Holy Land and Bethlehem University this weekend when my guest on “Vatican Insider” is John Schlageter, executive director of the Bethlehem University Foundation. John and I have been friends for years, starting when he was a lawyer for the Military Ordinariate of the United States specializing in First Amendment rights. We had a long visit days ago when I was in Washington, and I asked John to speak of his new position as executive director of the Foundation.

We talk about Bethlehem University, the Foundation, John’s work and the situation in the Holy Land,oly among many fascinating topics. This is Part I of two parts. Next week I will post some photos of this great university.


In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:   For VI archives:


(Vatican Radio) The government of the Sovereign Order of Malta has outlined its priorities, following the resignation of Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing on Saturday 28 January.

The former Grand Master was asked to resign by Pope Francis, who expressed his “appreciation and gratitude to Fra’ Festing for his loyalty and devotion to the Successor of Peter, and his willingness to serve humbly the good of the Order and the Church.”

Fra’ Festing’s resignation followed a confrontation with the Holy See provoked by the Grand Master’s attempt to discipline the Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Boeselager. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the newly reinstated Grand Chancellor said: “Together with the Lieutenant ad interim we are governing the Order according to our constitution and in a united and efficient way,”

In a statement released in conjunction with the press conference, the Knights of Malta emphasized the importance of their humanitarian work around the globe, noting especially projects in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The Knights also drew attention to “the proliferation of discriminatory positions towards immigrants, not least, based on their national origin.”

Chancellor Boeselager spoke with Vatican Radio following Thursday’s Press Conference: “We have experienced an unprecedented crisis in the recent weeks. Now, as the elected government is back in place we will concentrate to bring back normality, and to reassure that the more than 2000 projects of the Order all over the globe on the five continents will be run smoothly,” he said. “We … appreciate the decisions of the Holy Father which helped to overcome the crisis swiftly, and to concentrate again on our mission to restore trustful relations with the Holy See and to strengthen our serenity.”

The election of a new Grand Master is expected to take place within the next three months, in accordance with the Constitution of the Order.


Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil, Iraq. Editor’s note: Archbishop Bashar Warda is the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil in Iraq, and has long been an outspoken voice on behalf of Middle East Christianity. He recently spoke to Crux from Erbil about the Trump administration’s controversial executive order on refugees, including the idea of giving special preference to Christians and other minorities who have been victims of ISIS genocide.


CRUX: When the executive order was rolled out, your own upcoming trip to the United States was cancelled. What happened?

Warda: The main purpose for coming was for a Congressional hearing that was postponed. I hope to come soon and to testify on behalf of Christians in Iraq.

Do you agree that security concerns warrant the new U.S. refugee policy?

I don’t know what the president knows about security risks as they relate to the “countries of concern” and refugees from them.

I do know two things.

First, it is terrible to live with terrorism. My country lives with terrorism daily. And if the United States wants to have a strong vetting process, I can understand and appreciate that. Some people are quick to forget that Europe has tried to slow down the refugee flow too. The EU has done its best to keep the refugees in Turkey, and has paid Turkey to keep them there. Obviously, in the era of terrorism, people are concerned about who is entering their country and that is understandable.

Second, the Catholic Church is fundamentally on the side of immigrants, regardless of their faith or origin. This is a core part of who we are. So these are complex times in a brutal world. The real question is what is the obligation of the world community, not just the U.S., to all the innocent victims of this brutality. As the Church, especially here in Iraq, we are shepherds to the innocents, all of them – those who are migrating and those who are not.

I fear that all the media discussion on this travel issue will place the focus completely on those who are in the migration process, and forget those who are still attempting to live and survive in their legitimate homeland.

One other thing: Christians and other minorities have been largely ignored by the American government before now, so even if this step had a bumpy start and required clarification, we in Iraq appreciate that an American administration understands that we are here and wants to help the minorities here who have suffered so much.

Do you think this order will make it harder for Christians from Iraq?

Someone quoted me out of context on this in another article, so let me clarify it.

Obviously in certain individual cases in the short term, this could change the plans of those who were in the process of immigrating or traveling, but I understand several of our families with new immigrant visas have now been approved for travel just this week.

As long as this is understood as something available to all the minority communities of Iraq, and not just to the Christians, I do not think this will make it harder for us Christians here in Iraq. Obviously in the long run, it will make it easier for those from our community who wish to move to the West. And while I hope most of our people will stay, I must respect the decision they make for themselves, especially after what they have endured.

What do you make of the protests against President Trump’s refugee order?

Everyone, including the administration, seems to agree that this should have been implemented with more clarity. There was much confusion about what the order meant and many people were very upset.

From my perspective in Iraq, I wonder why all of these protesters were not protesting in the streets when ISIS came to kill Christians and Yazidis and other minority groups. They were not protesting when the tens of thousands of displaced Christians my archdiocese has cared for since 2014 received no financial assistance from the U.S. government or the U.N. There were no protests when Syrian Christians were only let in at a rate that was 20 times less than the percentage of their population in Syria.

I do not understand why some Americans are now upset that the many minority communities that faced a horrible genocide will finally get a degree of priority in some manner.

I would also say this, all those who cry out that this is a “Muslim Ban” – especially now that it has been clarified that it is not – should understand clearly that when they do this, they are hurting we Christians specifically and putting us at greater risk. The executive order has clearly affected Christians and Yazidis and others as well as Muslims.

Here in Iraq we Christians cannot afford to throw out words carelessly as the media in the West can do. I would ask those in the media who use every issue to stir up division to think about this. For the media these things become an issue of ratings, but for us the danger is real.

Most Americans have no concept of what it was like to live as a Yazidi or Christian or other minority as ISIS invaded. Our people had the option to flee, to convert, or to be killed, and many were killed in the most brutal ways imaginable. But there were none of these protests then of ISIS’s religious test.

Our people lost everything because of their faith – they were targeted for their faith, just like the Yazidis and others too. Now these protesters are saying that religion should not matter at all, even though someone was persecuted for their faith, even though persecution based on religion is one of the grounds for refugee status in the UN treaty on refugees.

From here I have to say, it is really unbelievable.

It is exactly this reasoning, that religion should not be a factor at all in American policy, that has resulted in Christians and other minority communities being overlooked by U.S. and UN aid programs. We are too small to matter, our communities are disappearing from constant persecution, and for years the American government didn’t care. Now when someone tries to help us, we have protesters telling us that there can be no religious basis for refugee status – even though the UN treaty and American law say that religious persecution is a major reason for granting the status, and even though ISIS targeted people primarily on the basis of religion.

I am not saying that any group should have a blanket preference when it comes to being admitted as a refugee in the United States. Such a policy would not be right, and would clearly be against our Catholic faith and teaching. And that is not the policy as I understand it.

But it is very hard for me to understand why comfortable people in the West think those who are struggling to survive against genocide, and whose communities are at extreme risk of disappearing completely, should not get some special consideration. We are an ancient people on the verge of extinction because of our commitment to our faith. Will anybody protest for us?

Do you think your people will take advantage of this priority status?

Clearly, I don’t want our Christian people to leave Iraq, because I hope our community will stay and thrive in its homeland, and contribute to the pluralism of a land Christians have called home for almost 2000 years. I think that a real Christian presence is critical to any future peace and reconciliation efforts here.

But that does not mean that I do not appreciate the effort and gesture the American government is making by giving priority to the most vulnerable people here. Remember, we have many thousands of Iraqi Christians, victims of ISIS, now trapped in other countries in the Middle East trying to get out to safety who do not even exist for the UN because they are afraid to enter the official refugee camps. This is a real problem.

Of those who are still here, I truly hope most of our people won’t seek asylum outside of Iraq, but I cannot stop them if they believe this is the only way they can have a life. The hardship and hopelessness, especially among the displaced people, is incredible. These people have lost everything on earth because of their faith in Jesus Christ. It is that simple.

They have kept their faith, but everything else has been taken from them. Everything.

What would you like to see changed in this executive order?

There needs to be a proper understanding and perception of what this means. Obviously there has been confusion about this and that isn’t good for anyone, including the administration. As other Christian leaders have noted, it is not good if people think there is priority only for the Christians. That could make us a target, but clearly we now know this is not the actual case with this policy.

This priority status was announced for all religious minorities in my country. That would include Yazidis and Mandaeans as well as Christians. It would have included Jews also, but Iraq already expelled almost all of its Jewish community decades ago.

In Syria, Shiite Muslims are a minority, and they were targeted by ISIS. So this isn’t only about the Christians. But there have been many injustices to the Christians and other minorities before now, especially with those from Syria having been largely excluded from entry to the United States since 2011.

I am happy an American president finally realizes there are Christians – and other religious minority groups – here who need help. This is an important step forward, and it means a good deal to the displaced people here. We have felt like we were forgotten by the United States until now.

What do your people need most from the American government?

The Christians of Iraq desperately need American government humanitarian aid now, and we need it to be delivered in a manner to ensure it actually reaches us and does not get absorbed and redirected in the existing aid structures.

My archdiocese hosts the largest community of displaced Christians in my country, and since 2014, we have received no money from the United States government and no money from the UN. We have hosted and cared for all of these displaced people on our own, with funds we raised privately on our own, nearly all of it from private Christian charitable groups. We are talking about housing, food, medicine, and schools. We have done all of this, and are continuing to do so.

I should say also that we are not just taking care of Christian IDPs. We have taken in many Yazidi families in our programs, and our medical clinics serve large numbers of Muslim IDP patients. As of today, we will run out of money for many of these programs in three months. For medicines, we have only two months’ reserve left, and we are serving many thousands of IDPs – Christians, Muslims and Yazidis. Our small staff is busy night and day working to find these funds, but we have been doing this for almost three years and many of our private donors are reaching their limits.

While the U.S. has donated generously to the overall humanitarian aid effort in Iraq, almost none of this aid reached the Christians. We are told by some that they cannot give us money because we are a Church. I have two things to say about this.

First, we have been advised by members of U.S. Congress that U.S. law does not prohibit Church organizations from receiving humanitarian funds, it only prohibits the use of proselytizing with those funds. As I just stated, we serve Yazidis and Muslims already and treat them with dignity and respect for who they are. And as Catholics, we are always respecting of all faiths.

Second, I think we have also delivered aid to the IDPs in a way that is far more efficient and effective than these other “official” aid organizations. Our staff are members of the Church, missionaries and volunteers, doing this work because we believe we are called to it. But under the previous administration, the Americans, and the UN, were applying a rigid formula that blocked the Church from receiving aid to help take care of our IDPs, while also denying aid to our IDPs directly because, in the view of the UN, we the Church were already taking care of them.

Imagine the frustration we have felt about this! And there was no outrage about this. Iraqi Christians celebrated when Trump won, because they hoped the American government would finally care about them after years of neglect by your government.

Why is it that Americans only use a religious test to prevent minority groups who are genocide survivors from getting aid, or to prevent them from getting any kind of priority assistance based on the needs of their communities? Here, we do not understand this.

Beyond this, because they are still displaced and will be for many more months, perhaps years, our people need aid to survive. Because their homes and villages were often destroyed by ISIS, they desperately need U.S. financial assistance to rebuild. Because the security situation is so complicated, they need meaningful security guarantees. And they need the U.S. government to insist that religious minorities get the same rights as citizens that every other citizen in Iraq gets, because right now, we do not get those same rights.

What is your impression of President Trump so far?

I am not a politician and I do not offer political endorsements, but on the issues that affect my people directly, I can say that I am pleased that an American president is focused on the plight of small religious communities – including the Christians – in Iraq. In many ways, this gives us a renewed hope for the future that we are not alone and abandoned by the West and by the United States, which was the common belief here up until now.