The March issue of ONE magazine is unique! For it appears in the month in which the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) began.
On 11 March 1926, Pope Pius XI founded CNEWA. He placed it under the care and direction of the archbishop of New York, then Patrick Joseph Cardinal Hayes (1867-1938), with service to the Holy See’s Congregation for Eastern Churches. CNEWA’s mission, a fundamental gospel mandate to walk with those people we serve like the crucified and risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), is accomplished as a papal agency. The current chair of CNEWA’s International Board of Trustees is Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York.
So, today, CNEWA marks its 95th anniversary! And I ask for your prayers as we move toward our centennial celebration.
As I write this reflection, let us not forget that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths around the world continues to grow. At this writing, some 113 million global cases have been recorded and more than 2.5 million global deaths. Let us remember in prayer all those in our lives who have been affected by this global tragedy and those who remain unknown to us.
Please remember in prayer, too, our Holy Father, who has just returned from an apostolic visit to Iraq. This was a historic undertaking, making it the first papal visit to Iraq. Iraq, located within ancient Mesopotamia, is so rich in religious history. It is the land of the Tower of Babel, Abraham of Ur of the Chaldeans, the great spiritual conversion of Nineveh, the presence of early disciples in the late first century, and today the home of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Mandaeans, Yazidis and Christians. In this current issue, you will read about CNEWA’s work in priestly formation at St. Peter’s Patriarchal Seminary of the Chaldean Church in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.
This issue also includes features that focus on CNEWA’s efforts to support programs for the care of children in Egypt and India — many with special needs — always in collaboration with the local church and its leaders. In addition, Father Elias Mallon, S.A., inaugurates a new series dedicated to the world of the Eastern churches. Finally, the issue contains a carefully researched and important piece on Ethiopia by Laura Ieraci. We share the concerns of so many for the violence that erupted in the Tigray region of Ethiopia in early November 2020.
In the December issue, I wrote of my intention to develop and offer for prayer and reflection major themes found in the recent encyclicals of Pope Francis, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship” (2020) and “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” (2015). From my perspective, I believe that CNEWA’s papal character and radical fidelity to our gospel mandate will always serve to drive our noble mission in the ecumenical, interreligious and secular settings in which we find our work. It is an opportunity to witness to our basic Catholic identity in extraordinary and heroic ways.
As Pope Francis was writing “Fratelli Tutti,” the COVID-19 global pandemic had exploded. The pope was moved and concerned about the inability of nations to work together to address the horror of this vicious virus. He wrote, “For all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all.” His desire is to hold up the dignity of every human person so that we can cultivate “the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women.”
Let us pray that nations will collaborate in the dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccines throughout the northern and southern hemispheres.
We cannot go it alone. The human being, created in the image and likeness of God is, therefore, like God — relational! Pope Francis invites us to “dream … as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home.”
This edition of ONE appears between the Lenten and Easter seasons. I invite you to re-read the story of the crucified and risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. All the Latin and Eastern churches will listen to that gospel during the Easter season. Let us pray to experience what the disciples who were with Jesus experienced when Luke (24:30) writes that “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” — their eyes were opened and their hearts burned with the desire to witness to the world!
Let us dream together, CNEWA, as we move through our 95th anniversary toward our centennial!