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Because it was only a few years after the conclusion of World War II and at that time the Catholic Church in the United States was in a better condition to support charitable aid than the church in Europe, the Holy See especially sought the help of U.S. Catholic agencies. CNEWA was asked to assist the Pontifical Mission for Palestine in accomplishing its work. Since the mission lacked civil status in the United States, CNEWA made appeals for its work and collected funds for it. CNEWA also provided the administrative and financial support necessary for the Pontifical Mission’s operations in addition to most of the means of assistance for the persons it served.

Although originally envisaged as a short-term, emergency program, the work of the Pontifical Mission necessarily continued in the uncertain and troubled arena of the Middle East. By 1967, it had evolved from providing emergency assistance for refugees to assisting an entire population living under martial law with few or weak social institutions. With the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war, the beneficiaries of the work of the Pontifical Mission began to be not only Palestinians but also Lebanese. With the Gulf War, its work extended to Iraqi refugees. By the time of its 50th anniversary in 1999, it was recognized as the Holy See’s overall development agency for the Middle East.

While the Pontifical Mission for Palestine is canonically distinct from CNEWA, in practice both organizations are united under one administration. The Pontifical Mission, in addition to its proper activities of emergency aid and social development, also administers programs of CNEWA. In effect, it functions as the Middle East operating agency of CNEWA.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Pope Pius XII, in an autographed letter to its president, Francis Cardinal Spellman, congratulated CNEWA for its work of safeguarding and fostering the faith among the Catholics of the Oriental rites and for its magnanimous cooperation with the Pontifical Mission. The Holy Father expressed his continuous need for assistance for all the peoples of the Near East and Eastern Catholics and his hopes and prayers for the expansion of the membership and work of CNEWA.

New structures for local program oversight

To assist the transmissions of funds for CNEWA’s needy child sponsorship program in Ethiopia, the “Ufficio CNEWA” within the Congregation for the Eastern Churches engaged the services of local staff in Addis Ababa. Meanwhile, the New York office of CNEWA was utilizing the part-time services of local Ethiopian staff for project oversight. As responsibility for the disbursement of needy child sponsorship funds moved from the “Ufficio CNEWA” and the Congregation in Rome to CNEWA’s administrative headquarters in New York, it was decided to organize in 1986 a regional office in Addis Ababa to assume responsibility for all programmatic disbursements, whether subsidies to institutions or grants for programs and projects.

While D. Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy was prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, responsibility for needy child sponsorship program disbursements and then seminarian and novice sponsorship program disbursements was transferred to the New York office of CNEWA.



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