Catholic Near East Welfare Association
CATHOLIC NEAR EAST WELFARE ASSOCIATION
Commonly known by its acronym, CNEWA, an agency of the Holy See established to support the pastoral mission and institutions of the Catholic Churches of the East and to provide humanitarian assistance to the needy and afflicted without regard to nationality or religion. The Holy Father also has entrusted it with responsibility for promoting the union of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
CNEWA works on behalf of the Christian East—that is, those lands in which, from ancient times, the majority of Christians are members of the various Eastern churches. Its mandate extends to the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe and to Eastern Catholics everywhere. It raises and distributes funds to help meet the material and spiritual needs of the people it serves.
Establishment and early history. During the years following World War I, Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI sought to bring material and spiritual aid to the countries and peoples afflicted by the war. They were supported generously by the faithful of the whole world and in particular by the Catholics of United States. Various American associations were organized to assist the needy in Russia and the Near East.
On March 11, 1926, Pius XI merged these American Catholic associations into one—The Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a pontifical organization incorporated in Pennsylvania on Sept. 30, 1924 to support the pastoral, relief and ecumenical activities of the Greek Catholic Exarchate in Constantinople. The fledging association was placed under the immediate direction of the Archbishop of New York, who was charged to form a governing body for it selected from the U.S. hierarchy. On Sept. 15, 1926, at their eighth annual meeting, the Catholic bishops of the United States expressed "their full approval and adoption" of the pope's plan and declared that the new Catholic Near East Welfare Association "shall be the sole instrumentality authorized to solicit funds for Catholic interests in those regions and shall be so recommended to the entire Catholic population of the United States."
On June 28, 1930, the pope established regulations to clarify the objectives of CNEWA and to strengthen its bonds with the Holy See, emphasizing that CNEWA was to conduct its activities under the immediate and personal direction of the Archbishop of New York, who would function as president and treasurer. The archbishop was to select a secular priest and entrust him with the day-today administration of the organization with the title of secretary. CNEWA continued to operate under its Pennsylvania civil charter until Dec. 14, 1942 when it was reincorporated under the Religious Corporations Law of the State of New York.
Later developments. On June 18, 1949, the Holy See's humanitarian and charitable assistance to Palestinian refugees and displaced persons was consolidated and formalized with the establishment of the pontifical mission for palestine. Pope Pius XII entrusted its direction to the Secretary of CNEWA with the mandate of coordinating aid from the entire Catholic world for the suffering people of the Holy Land. Offices were established first in Beirut, Lebanon, and later in Jerusalem and Rome; after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, another office was opened in Amman, Jordan.
CNEWA support of India's Eastern Catholic churches—the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara Churches—increased after Indian independence in 1947. The establishment in the 1960s of CNEWA's sponsorship programs for the support of needy children, seminarians, and religious sisters strengthened its presence in India as well as in Northeast Africa, particularly Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. An Addis Ababa office was established in 1993, and an Asmara office, in 1999.
CNEWA informs people about the peoples and faiths of the East, especially through its bimonthly magazine, CNEWA World. The governing body of CNEWA is a board of nine trustees, chaired by the Archbishop of New York. CNEWA's principal office is located in New York City. The following have served as secretary (general): Father Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., (1926–31); Msgr. James B. O'Reilly (1931–41); Msgr. Bryan J. McEntegart (1941–43); Msgr. Thomas J. McMahon (1943–55); Msgr. Peter P. Tuohy (1955–60); Msgr. Joseph T. Ryan (1960–66); Msgr. John G. Nolan (1966–87); and Msgr. Robert L. Stern (1987–).
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