CNEWA

ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

Happy Birthday, ONE

“Quietly and without fanfare the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) marked its golden jubilee at the end of 1974,” noted the editors in the second edition of this magazine in the spring of 1975.

“Its dynamic national secretary, Monsignor John G. Nolan, observed the occasion in a characteristic way. He and his associates launched this new publication, Catholic Near East Magazine. It aims, as you know, to cultivate among our readers a deeper understanding of the progress of the church and its people in the lands of the Middle East.”

Much has happened in our world, our church, our communities and in the life of this special initiative of the Holy See since those words were published five decades ago. For starters, Catholic Near East Magazine — after a temporary rebranding as CNEWA World prompted by CNEWA’s 75th anniversary in 2001 — is now known as ONE. This reflects, as I wrote in the May-June 2004 edition, “the agency’s charism — always act as if we are all one, unless we are forced to encounter a difference.”

“Without doubt, ONE is a Catholic publication,” I continued. “But ONE decidedly bucks the trend of modern society, which seeks to emphasize what divides us, either by nationality, ethnicity, religion, politics or values.

“As CNEWA’s official publication, ONE recognizes both what makes all peoples and faiths unique and what all people of good will have in common: the God-given gift of love.”

Love. What a simple word. Yet, much like the word “peace,” how complex, how elusive a concept in a world ripped apart by the utter lack of both. This year not only marks the occasion of the golden jubilee of ONE magazine — truly a cause for celebration in an age of instability — but the birthdays of two special instruments of the universal church’s love for a broken world: the centenary of the original U.S.-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the diamond jubilee of Pontifical Mission for Palestine.

Let me explain. The suffering of humanity caught up in the violent dissolution of the Russian and Ottoman empires after World War I profoundly moved the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XV. He initiated humanitarian relief efforts throughout Asia Minor and Europe, which his successor, Pius XI, continued upon his election after Benedict’s premature death in January 1922. These aid efforts included contacts with Catholic leaders in the United States, including the Jesuit priest, Edmund A. Walsh, and the founder of the Friars of the Atonement, the Rev. Paul Wattson.

Two young girls smile at a displaced persons camp in Eritrea.
CNEWA has assisted an innumerable number of people in its decades of service to the Eastern churches, including these girls at a displaced persons camp in Eritrea. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)

Troubled by the news of displaced Armenians, Assyrians and Chaldeans, Greeks and anti-Bolshevik Russians seeking refuge in Constantinople — the capital of the evaporating Ottoman world — and moved by the pope’s appeals for help, Father Paul encouraged his supporters to fund the tireless relief efforts of the Greek Catholic Bishop George Calavassy, who had recruited an English military chaplain working among the refugees, Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle, to assist him in raising emergency relief funds in the United States.

In December 1924, Father Paul, Msgr. Barry-Doyle and a group of prominent Catholic laymen established in Philadelphia “the Catholic Near East Welfare Association” as a vehicle to assist Bishop Calavassy’s work with the displaced Christians of the “Near East.” Msgr. Barry-Doyle’s eloquent speaking program, entitled “The Call of the East,” packed concert halls across the United States — including Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall — and raised significant funds for CNEWA to address the needs of the displaced in Constantinople.

Less than two years later, Pope Pius XI united several Catholic initiatives with similar goals — including Father Paul’s CNEWA, of which he was vice president — into a single papal agency with its board of directors chaired ex officio by the archbishop of New York. The pope retained the name Catholic Near East Welfare Association, thereby centralizing and strengthening the various efforts for the Eastern churches throughout what was then called the Near East. In 2026, we will commemorate the founding of CNEWA as a program of the Holy See first led by Father Edmund Walsh, S.J.

Nearly a quarter of a century after Pope Pius XI founded CNEWA, his successor founded Pontifical Mission for Palestine in 1949. Pontifical Mission first coordinated worldwide Catholic aid to Palestinian refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom had fled their homes after the hasty departure of British troops from Mandatory Palestine in 1948. Pius XII placed the leadership and administration of Pontifical Mission, then understood as an ad hoc agency, under CNEWA. Subsequent pontiffs have extended and made permanent its mandate for the needs of all vulnerable persons throughout the Middle East.

Today, CNEWA directs its activities throughout the region through its Pontifical Mission office in Amman, which serves Iraq and Jordan; in Beirut, serving Lebanon and Syria; and in Jerusalem, serving in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

Throughout this year of anniversaries, we will look back and reproduce in these pages, and on our website at cnewa.org, some of our readers’ favorite stories, as well as feature articles covering the historic and important events published in these pages over the past 50 years — 35 of which I have served in a variety of capacities, from editorial assistant to executive editor.

Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, our publisher, and the entire team at CNEWA hope you find these features informative and inspiring, evidence of the resilience of the human spirit, the power of faith and how love can transform and transcend lives so sorely in need of it.

Read this article in our digital print format here.

About the Author: Michael J.L. La Civita

Michael La Civita is CNEWA’s director of communications.

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