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A World of Difference

by Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern

Why did you do it? Why did you decide to change the name of Catholic Near East magazine?

Actually, our magazine takes its name from its parent organization, Catholic Near East Welfare Association – which is celebrating its diamond anniversary this year!

When Pope Pius XI established Catholic Near East Welfare Association on 11 March 1926, most of the words in its title had a different sense than they do today. To avoid potential misunderstandings, for several years we have been referring to the organization by its acronym, CNEWA.

To launch CNEWA’s 75th anniversary celebration, we thought this an auspicious occasion to echo that change in name with our magazine as well.

What could be misleading about the old name of our magazine?

First, “Catholic.” We certainly are a Catholic publication, and, to be specific, the publication of a papal agency. Our inspiration is Catholic. One of the major purposes of our parent organization, CNEWA, is to support the Eastern Catholic churches – our magazine tells their stories.

But, CNEWA’s other mandates are to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need regardless of nationality or religion, promote Christian unity and foster interreligious understanding and collaboration.

That’s why our magazine tells about all the people in the lands we serve, not only Catholics, but also other Christians – Orthodox, Protestants, Evangelicals – Jews, Muslims, Hindus and even people of no religion at all.

Second, “Near East.” Originally, British foreign office usage divided Asia into the Near East, the Middle East and the Far East. “Near East” referred to the countries lying east of the Mediterranean, mostly in southwest Asia. It was not a precise designation. Sometimes it extended from western Greece around to western Egypt. Sometimes it included all the Balkans.

“Middle East” often referred to countries further east than the “Near East,” up to but not including Pakistan and India. Today the one term, “Middle East,” is commonly is used for both.

(The division of the Mediterranean world into east and west is a usage dating to the Roman Empire.)

When CNEWA was founded, the Holy Father’s mandate was to assist the peoples and churches under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Commission for Russia – in those days, referring to the territory of the old Russian Empire.

That’s why it’s more accurate for us to speak of CNEWA as serving the peoples and churches of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe – and Eastern Catholics everywhere.

That’s why, also, CNEWA’s magazine is not just about the “Catholic Near East,” but about all the different peoples and faiths of the world CNEWA serves – and about how we try to make a world of difference!

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Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA



Tags: CNEWA Unity