This week on Register Radio, Jeanette DeMelo talks with staff writer Peter Jesserer Smith about his recent trip with Catholic Relief Services to refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.  Also, Dan Burke and Father Paul Check—of the Courage apostolate—talk about homosexuality, the Church and what true compassion really means.

Catholic Relief Services in the Middle East, with Peter Jesserer Smith

Peter Jesserer Smith is a register staff writer he recently returned from a trip to refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon with Catholic Relief Services.

Smith was one of four journalists selected to be part of the 2014 Catholic Relief Services’ Egan Fellowship program and see the work of the Church there to help the refugees from the Syrian civil war and the crisis in Iraq with the persecution of Christians.

“It was heartbreaking and also hopeful at the same time,” Smith said. “Most of the refugees do not live in camps. They are struggling to get by living in mostly in and around cities.” He shared that many of these refugees cannot legally work and are terrified by the lack of funding from the United Nations for assistance with rent and things like that.

“They’ve been also very dependent on Caritas and on the work CRS has been doing,” he said. “They’re very appreciative.”

“These are very beautiful people,” Smith said. “Many of them are middle class. They are people who, in the stories after stories that I heard, none of them ever assumed that this sort of violence would happen to them. The Syrian refugees never imagined that their whole lives would be turned upside down by civil war.” 

He continued, “The Iraqi Christians that I met never want to go back, because of all the pain from betrayal from neighbors and from the Islamic state coming in and threatening them with death unless they rejected their faith. And they chose their faith. They were very adamant about that in all the stories they told me.”

Smith mentioned that a lot of the refugees are very bored. “They can’t find work, they are reluctant to go outside, and they’re just hoping some country accepts them so they can get out.”

Smith tells of the amazing people he met and also of how safe he felt in Jordan. He credited that with the people and government. Lebanon was more tense, he said, due to some political imbalances and 

Listen to Smith relate his experience in the entire interview.

Fr. Paul Check on Homosexuality and Compassion

Fr. Paul Check is a priest with the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bishop William Lori appointed him to be the Chaplain for Courage in Bridgeport in December 2002. In 2008, Fr. Paul Check was elected to succeed Fr. John F. Harvey as the Executive Director of Courage International, which provides pastoral support to individuals with a same-sex attraction who wish to live according to the Church’s teachings on chastity.

“There is so much confusion, so many misperceptions, anger, and pain around the question of homosexuality,” Fr. Check said. “It’s not surprising that that would be the case, because this is something very personal and painful for many people, and the Church’s teaching is often understood to come down to one word: No, you can’t love and be loved, or know and be known in an intimate way by the people that you choose.”

In 1980, Servant of God Terrance Cardinal Cook said, according to Fr. Check, “We have to have something more to offer to people on this question of homosexuality than the word ‘No’.” After seeking the help of Fr. Benedict Groeschel and Fr. John Harvey, the first Courage group of met in lower Manhattan, formulated the goals, and now are in over half the dioceses of the United States and 15 countries overseas.

“Our particular work is not entering the controversy and civil discussion of same sex unions and the rest, it’s looking after individual people, helping them to know Jesus Christ, and to understand themselves properly and authentically in the light of Christ, so that with the particular struggles and difficulties they have, they can live peacefully and find their way to the Lord,” Fr. Check said.

Recently, Fr. Check was involved with the making of the film Desire of the Everlasting Hills. While the movie is about three people and their understanding of themselves and involvement with homosexual life, according to Fr. Check, “it’s a film really about Christ and the desire of the heart for fulfillment in Christ.”

You’ll want to listen to the entire conversation with Fr. Check on this week’s show.