With mixed emotions, I wish the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) in Canada a Happy 10th Anniversary! When we see or listen to the daily news or check the web for the latest stories, we are exposed to the plight of people in dire circumstances who desperately need help to meet their most basic needs.
CNEWA was founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926 but only opened a Canadian office in 2005 at the invitation of the Holy See in order to respond to the increasing needs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, refugees and peoples from all over the East: Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India and Northeast Africa.
When I look back to its foundation here in Canada, I recall that we ended our first year of operations with charitable donations totalling less than $400,000. Today, from its most recent campaign for 2014, it has raised over $3.8 million. I am proud to have been a founding member of CNEWA in Canada and to have seen the growth of its charitable works over the last decade, yet I am saddened too at the great needs that continue to make this organization necessary.
I know from firsthand experience in both the Middle East and Africa that CNEWA and you, its supporters, are making a real difference in the lives of our sisters and brothers in Christ and in the lives of people of many other religions. I am so proud of what we have accomplished together and am optimistic about our continuing ability to respond to growing needs.
This December 8th on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis will inaugurate a Jubilee Year of Mercy in the universal Church. In the papal bull announcing its inception, he wrote: the Church is called above all to be a credible witness to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ. From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people approach it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends. The profundity of the mystery surrounding it is as inexhaustible as the richness which springs up from it.
The best way we can celebrate the ten years of success of CNEWA in Canada is to redouble our prayers and our financial support to aid those most in need. May we celebrate the Year of Mercy remembering our sisters and brothers in the East for whom we can be an agent of mercy with the help of CNEWA. May God bless CNEWA, its partners and all its benefactors.
Terrence Prendergast, S.J.
Archbishop of Ottawa
Chair of CNEWA Canada
April 22, 2015