Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic seminarians prepare for worship in Uzhorod, Ukraine. (photo: Oleg Grigoryev)
The turmoil in Asia Minor in the early 20th century — the suffering of refugees after World War I and the need to sustain them in their place of refuge, the city of Constantinople — served as the impetus for the creation of Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Ninety years later, CNEWA’s support for the Church of Constantinople continues.
Until the collapse of Communism and the unraveling of the Soviet Union, the Eastern churches of the region — all of which had received the Christian faith in its Byzantine form from Constantinople’s missionaries — suffered varying degrees of oppression and persecution. Some, especially the Greek Catholic communities in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine, were nearly destroyed; in Romania and Ukraine, the churches were driven underground and ceased to exist — at least legally.
Healthier local economies, and robust support from CNEWA’s Catholic partners in Western Europe and North America, have enabled CNEWA to focus its attention in support of the men and women called to serve these churches as priests, religious and lay leaders, providing key support to the Greek Catholic seminaries and houses of formation of the Carpatho-Rusyn, Hungarian, Romanian and Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches.
CNEWA has also been a key partner in building up the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, providing support to educate hundreds of new leaders for the country. “The support is more than financial,” says one alumnus. “The close cooperation of CNEWA is a genuine gesture of solidarity.”
That solidarity is also expressed directly and personally, just as it was 90 years ago, in helping people left homeless by war and strife. Poverty, civil strife and war dismembered post-Soviet Georgia, compelling CNEWA to assist the churches in their relief and support of that nation’s proud people. Ukraine continues to deal with war and civil and political unrest that has displaced more than a million. CNEWA, working through the local churches, has accompanied these people and sought ways to provide humanitarian and pastoral support during a tumultuous time.
In addition to providing grants for various initiatives, usually through the Caritas network, CNEWA has long provided significant support for the academic formation of Orthodox priests and bishops, collaborating with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
These initiatives and others continue to link CNEWA to its roots in support of the Church of Constantinople. They serve to remind us that, while much has changed over the last nine decades, CNEWA’s mandate and mission to serve and accompany the Eastern churches have not.
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