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ACN grieves for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

“The pope’s teaching on charity has been very valuable to ACN.”

It is with deep sorrow and great gratitude that the international pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need bids farewell to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He was an exceptional friend and supporter of the charity, says ACN’s President, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza: “The teaching of Pope Benedict, who dedicated his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est to the subject of charity, has been very valuable to ACN.” Through it he strengthened the mission of the charity which “on the basis of its founding charisma is completely taken up with charity, so as to help the suffering Church.”

During his foreign travels, Pope Benedict came to learn of the charity’s dedication towards suffering and oppressed Christians. In 2007, for example, he made an apostolic journey to Brazil , a drug rehabilitation centre, the “Fazenda da Esperança” (Farm of Hope), supported by ACN.

ACN raised to a pontifical charity

For many years, Pope Benedict accompanied the work of the international Catholic charity in a significant way. Cardinal Piacenza recalls that it was Pope Benedict XVI who, in 2011, raised the charity to the status of Pontifical Charity and started a comprehensive modernisation process. In the letter of confirmation (chirograph), the Pope honoured the accomplishments of the organization, “which for 65 years has accompanied the Church everywhere that financial means were lacking or where there were violations of the freedom of religion, which made the exercise of its mission to evangelise difficult or even impossible.” Through its transformation into a pontifical charity, ACN evolved into its current structure after Pope Benedict named Cardinal Mauro Piacenza as its first president.

In 2007, during his apostolic visit to Brazil, he visited the Fazenda da Esperança, Farm of Hope.

Pope was a supporter of ACN

In his time time as cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger was already connected to ACN. Back in 2002, Back in 2002 when he was still a Cardinal, he said: “I support ‘Church in Need’ [ACN’s name at the time], because I know that it is really doing a service to faith. Many think that you can only support social work in the narrow sense of the word; that you should leave it up to each person what they believe. But in reality, nothing is more important than bringing God to people, helping them to find Christ, because only then do the powers of faith awaken, which are the decisive form of energy for world history. ‘Church in Need’ meets the need for faith, and thereby does what is most necessary for our world.”

“This power of the faith Pope Benedict spoke about can be experienced by ACN every year in the hundreds of thousands of donations that make it possible to help strengthen the Church and the faith in the world,” says Thomas Heine-Geldern, the charity’s executive president.

In Castelgandolfo at the general audience.

A pope engaged in the formation of young people

Heine-Geldern remembers how close young people were to Pope Benedict’s heart: “He also committed this important concern to us, through the care, distribution and development of the youth catechism YOUCAT.”

Today, the YOUCAT Foundation is a firm part of Aid to the Church in Need; it supports the pope’s mission of information and proclamation. In the foreword to the youth catechism, Pope Benedict addressed young people directly: “You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination.”

Christianity as a religion of freedom and love

The enduring legacy for the whole Church of the deceased Pope was “the feeling of identity and belonging amidst the dictatorship of relativism, which has often become fundamentalism,” said Cardinal Piacenza. Benedict XVI communicated to the faithful that Christianity was just as much a religion of freedom as a religion of love. “He showed that relativism was at the basis of many demands for rights, and that freedom, when it becomes detached from reality, destroys itself.”

Together with his appreciation of liturgy and prayer, the pope communicated values which in the practice of ACN “support its practical work of assistance and which are its origin,” says Cardinal Piacenza. He calls upon the beneficiaries of the charity to pray for the deceased former pontiff and for the whole Church and to pass on the pope’s message through works of charity.

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