Happy Birthday, CNEWA!

Ninety-five years ago today, Pope Pius XI founded Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

“On 11 March 1926, Pope Pius XI decided to unite permanently into one organization and under one administration all the American Catholic associations working for assistance to Russia and other areas of the Near East and in general working for the same goals as the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church and the Pontifical Commission for Russia. This new pontifical organization was to be called the ‘Catholic Near East Welfare Association’ (CNEWA). It was placed under the immediate direction of the archbishop of New York, and he was invited to form a governing body selected from the American hierarchy. The funds raised by the new association were to be placed directly at the disposition of the Holy Father, who would disburse them in response to the requests for assistance coming to him from all over the world or recommended to him by CNEWA itself.”

The work of the new association took off, and just a year later, the pope, in a letter to CNEWA’s first president, Jesuit Father Edmund A. Walsh, noted that “it was judged proper … to constitute the CATHOLIC NEAR EAST WELFARE ASSOCIATION on a permanent basis.

“It is, therefore, a supreme consolation to Us to know that the work has been so founded and We impart a special benediction for its perseverance … it well merits to be called Pontifical both for the benefits it has bestowed in the past and the promise it holds for the future.”

And what a future that has been. And the future is what CNEWA is about. 

Fundamentally, says CNEWA’s current president, Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, CNEWA’s mission is a “gospel mandate to walk with those people we serve like the crucified and risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. 

“Let us dream together as we move through our 95th anniversary toward our centenary!”

Join us as we mark a centenary of service in accompanying the Eastern churches as we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope. 

Michael J.L. La Civita is CNEWA’s communications director.

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