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Pontifical Mission at 50: New York

Diplomats, clergy and laity mark the golden jubilee of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine.

prepared by CNEWA staff
photographs by Maria Bastone


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“My presence here among you today is linked to the establishment 50 years ago of an agency which originated in the special concern of Pope Pius XII for the peoples of the Holy Land and, particularly, for the Palestinians. I refer to the Pontifical Mission for Palestine….

“On the happy occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Mission, I would like to express sincerely to both the officers and to all their associates at the local level the profound and heartfelt thanks of the Holy See and of the Holy Father himself for their generous and untiring efforts in serving the needs of the peoples of the Holy Land.”

With these words, spoken at the New York headquarters of the United Nations on 25 October 1999, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, recognized the achievements of the Pontifical Mission at the principal event of New York’s two-day celebration of the Mission’s golden jubilee.

A Mass of Thanksgiving. On 24 October, Archbishop Tauran was the principal celebrant at a Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Although still recovering from surgery, John Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York and President of CNEWA, presided and delivered a homily in which he welcomed hundreds of guests and benefactors who joined the congregation for the event. The Cardinal praised the Pontifical Mission for its work on behalf of the impoverished, often stateless, people of the Middle East, citing the “great sacrifice” required of its staff.

Archbishop Renato Martino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations; two CNEWA Board members – Bishop Basil H. Losten of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut, and Bishop John J. Nevins of the Diocese of Venice in Florida – and Bishop James M. Moynihan of Syracuse, New York, former Associate Secretary General of CNEWA, were among the concelebrants.

In a much appreciated gesture of fellowship, three Eastern Catholic hierarchs – Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, Eparch John Elya of the Melkite Greek Catholic Diocese of Newton and Bishop Joseph Younan of the Syrian Catholic Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance – also concelebrated.

The overseas directors of the Pontifical Mission joined former overseas directors and administrators, donors and friends at the Mass. Three octogenarians, Msgr. Francis “Fritz” Kennedy, Msgr. John Meaney and Miss Carol Hunnybun, were among the former directors and administrators present at the event.

Msgr. Stern details Pontifical Mission history. Following the Mass, 300 benefactors, staff members and friends of the Pontifical Mission attended a reception and luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Msgr. Robert L. Stern, President, spoke during the meal about the Mission’s history and work.

“For the past 50 years the Holy See has been engaged in a power struggle in the Middle East,” he declared as he opened his address, “a power struggle with Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. No, not a struggle for or against political power, for the Holy See has no real political power in the modern world – though it has immense moral authority.

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Tags: CNEWA Middle East Palestine Msgr. Stern Holy See