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When Achille Cardinal Silvestrini became the prefect of the congregation, he encouraged CNEWA to manage the transmissions of all funds, including grants for projects and programs, directly from New York, rather than through the “Ufficio CNEWA” within the Congregation. Later, on 11 June 1994, these procedures were formalized and, in response to Cardinal Silvestrini’s request, the “Ufficio CNEWA” was removed from the congregation and joined to the existing Pontifical Mission office in Rome. The changes were considered ad experimentum for a period of five years. In 1999, they were deemed satisfactory and made permanent.

The same year, another regional office was established in Ernakulam to ensure better oversight of the extensive program of CNEWA in India, and responsibility for much of the operational detail concerned with institutional subsidies and the agency’s three person-to-person sponsorship programs was transferred to the new office.

A characteristic of all of these offices of CNEWA is that they are available to assist the dicasteries of the Holy See, especially the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, as well as Catholic donor agencies in assessment of local applications for subsidies or grants, in the administration of programmatic disbursements and in supplying appropriate and supporting reports.

The innovative programs of personal sponsorship of the education and formation of individual seminarians and novices and of the care of individual orphaned or needy children developed by CNEWA had great success. Also the membership of CNEWA gradually expanded to include Catholics in Canada and, to a lesser extent, Mexico and other countries, to the point that CNEWA became the principal animator and collector in North America of assistance for the Near East.

Ecumenical and interreligious activities

The restructuring of CNEWA initiated in 1985 under the presidency of John Cardinal O’Connor not only led to a major expansion of programmatic activities and the development of additional regional offices, but to a renewed and greater emphasis on the ecumenical aspect of CNEWA’s foundational mission. Although the primary beneficiaries of CNEWA’s funding activities continued to be the Eastern Catholic churches and their institutions and programs, increasingly support began to be given to the Orthodox and other churches in the countries within CNEWA’s area of service.

This was a conscious and deliberate return to CNEWA’s original mandate, inherited from the Catholic Union, to work for the union of the Orthodox churches with the Holy See and to make CNEWA active in the “dialogue of charity.” By extension, some deployment of CNEWA’s resources also began to be made to assist Muslims and other non-Christians through their participation in CNEWA’s works of charity.

Expansion of CNEWA

With the strong encouragement of not only its own episcopal Board of Trustees but also the prefects of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, first Achille Cardinal Silvestrini and then Ignace Moussa I Cardinal Daoud, plans were developed for the creation of branch, national offices of CNEWA to raise public awareness of the Eastern churches and the countries in which they are located and to solicit funds for their subvention.

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