Bishops raise $70,000 for drought

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Bishops bearing gifts
Bishops came to Forbes bearing a gift for the drought-stricken Wilcanna-Forbes diocese after Easter. PHOTO: Tricia Ward

It was Easter, not Christmas, but three wise men still received a warm welcome when they came bearing a $10,000 gift for the drought-stricken community in the Catholic diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes.

Chaldean Bishop Amel Shamon Nona of the Eparchy of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Melkite Bishop Robert Rabbat and Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Daniel visited Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green in early April with their generous gift, bringing to $70,000 the total donation to drought relief given by local Middle Eastern Catholic and Orthodox communities.

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The bishops’ delegation was treated to lunch at the chancery office and a presentation on the drought’s effects by students at St Laurence’s Primary School in Forbes before visiting with farmers in the area.

Bishop Columba said he was deeply grateful for the donation which would help families expected to suffer the effects of prolonged drought for years to come.

“It was such a pleasure and privilege to host them in our diocese,” he said.

St Laurence's students and staff
St Laurence’s Primary School students and staff meet with Bishop Columba and the three guests. PHOTO: Tricia Ward

Bishop Rabbat, president of the representatives of the Middle Eastern Apostolic Churches in Australia and New Zealand, said that they were prompted to be generous by their gratitude to Australia for accepting refugees from their various homelands.

“We are grateful for this blessed nation that has opened its arms to our people and so we asked ourselves, ‘How can we say a little bit of a thank you?’ That’s how we came together and asked our people to do their best despite their challenges of having families overseas who are still under duress.”

The Eastern churches initially raised $30,000 during their traditional Christmas fasting Lent period for the Wilcannia-Forbes diocese.

They sent another $30,000 in the beginning of the year to the NSW Farmers Association which was working on drought assistance in conjunction with the Salvation Army.

“Then we said, ‘Now it is Easter’. We decided to ask our people to dig deep once more and they have raised an Easter gift for us to present today for $10,000,” said Bishop Rabbat.

The bishops decided to make the road trip to deliver it themselves and meet some of the people facing NSW’s worst drought in history.

“We want them to know that we will pray for them and we will take back to our people a better understanding of how we can continue to help,” Bishop Rabbat said.