Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople embraces Pope Francis during a liturgy in the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul. (photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)
This year, as we commemorate the 90th anniversary of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, we are reminded again and again of the word that is literally our middle name: East.
Pope Pius XI founded Catholic Near East Welfare Association in 1926 to support the people served by the Eastern churches, especially the Catholic Eastern churches. Month after month, year after year, we have worked side by side with the dedicated laity, priests and religious men and women of these churches. Through a common faith, we have experienced the rich diversity of culture, liturgy and language that makes up our Christian heritage — and we have shared the sufferings and setbacks, the trials and the tears that are so much a part of life in the lands we are privileged to serve.
No commemoration of our nine decades of service to these faith communities, which include our sister Orthodox churches, would be complete without honoring them. And in this edition of ONE, we intend to do just that — with affection, with joy and with tremendous gratitude. It has been our great privilege to accompany these ancient and apostolic churches on their pilgrim journey, a journey that has given us a deeper appreciation for the rich and beautiful mystery of faith that binds us together as members of the one human family.
This journey has been a story of perseverance and purpose, one that has left us humbled and enriched. It is the story of sisters caring for the victims of war; of seminarians preparing to serve the people of God; of faithful from all walks of life reaching out to the poorest of the poor, and seeing in one another God’s abundant grace at work. To experience this again and again is to realize there is a larger story unfolding in these churches: It is the story of Easter.
It is a story of resurrection and of hope.
And it is, of course, as with the Gospel itself, a love story.
In the pages that follow, you will meet some of the men and women who are living this story every day, and doing it with enthusiasm, fervor and zeal. We focus on what we consider the five families of the Eastern churches — Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Armenia — rooted in the ancient lands where the apostles first planted the Gospel. The one church’s “family tree” is complex and elaborate, with many entwined branches, and we will also help trace this tree’s sometimes meandering roots.
The result, we hope, is a portrait of the world we serve — and a tribute to those who inhabit it and glorify the one who created it.