I. Early Years
During the years immediately following World War I, the Holy Fathers, Pope Benedict XV and Pope Pius XI, made it their mission to do all that they could to bring material and spiritual assistance to the countries and peoples sorely tried by years of war. They were supported in this great work of charity by the generosity of the faithful of the whole world and in particular by the Catholics of the United States of America. The Holy See's appeals for aid, especially in the years 1921-1923 for the relief of famine victims in Russia, were wholeheartedly and generously responded to by the American people, and various American associations were organized to assist the needy in Russia and other regions of the Near East.
Among these organizations was “The Catholic Near East Welfare Association,” a charitable group founded in 1924 by a dynamic priest, Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle, and Atonement Friar Paul Wattson, a former Episcopal priest dedicated to the cause of Christian unity. An Irish chaplain serving British troops during World War I, Msgr. Barry-Doyle arrived in New York at the behest of Father Paul, who enlisted the priest to raise funds for the humanitarian activities of Greek Catholic Bishop George Calavassy, the apostolic exarch in Constantinople.
The other, the “Catholic Union,” legally incorporated in the State of New York on 5 January 1925, was a branch of the “Catholica Unio,” organized to work for the reunion of the Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian and, later, all the Orthodox churches with Rome. Subtitled “A Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the Near East,” the Catholic Union’s ambition was to become a worldwide organization for the support of the Oriental Congregation in much the same way as the Society for the Propagation of the Faith supported the works of the Congregation for the Propaganda Fide.
Part of its mission was “to establish and to maintain the Roman Catholic missions in Eastern Europe” and “to create and sustain a friendly interest in the religious and moral life of the peoples of Eastern Europe.” Soon afterward it was entitled “A Society for the Reunion with the Holy Church of the Separated Brethren of the Near East Incorporated.”
These two similar yet diverse entities each had its own ecclesiastical and lay advocates and supporters — “The Catholic Near East Welfare Association” advocating the cause of the Greeks and the “Catholic Union” increasingly concerned with the plight of the Russians. However, both variously described themselves as concerned for humanitarian assistance, missionary activity and the promotion of church unity.