ACN FEATURE STORY – Beirut: Young Ministers of Mercy

07.08.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Aid to refugees, Feature Story, Lebanon
Photo: Lebanon, the Roueissat Jdeideh, St. Anthony dispensary run by Sr. Hanan Youssef (Good Shepherds Sisters) meeting the refugees from Iraq and Syria: Robert Lalonde Journalist of ACN Canada) with Sister  Hanan – Help to the dispensary Saint Antoine,  2014


Beirut, Lebanon

Young Ministers of Mercy

Food, clothes and medicine in urgent demand in Beirut


By John Pontifex, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web, August 7, 2020


Thousands of young Christian volunteers are on the ground in Beirut delivering emerging help, as Lebanon reels from the explosion that ripped through the heart of the capital.


With schools, convents and parishes opening up as refuge centres following the blast on Tuesday (4th August), Msgr. Toufic Bou-Hadir, director of the Maronite Patriarchal Commission for Youth, described how teams of young people were clearing the debris and delivering urgent aid, with medicine, clothes, blankets and food in huge demand.


The priest highlighted the young people’s “amazing” response to what he called “an apocalypse” in which 300,000 families had been displaced.


He made his comments in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity which is providing food for 5,000 families affected by the explosion.


Tragedy and Desperate Searches


Msgr. Bou-Hadir, an ACN project partner, highlighted the ordeal of people desperately searching for news of missing loved ones and the trauma of trying to identify the dead from badly disfigured bodies being placed in a makeshift mortuary.


Amid reports that Beirut’s mainly Christian district of Achrafieh was worst devastated by the blast, the priest described how the body of one of the Maronite young people, named Joe, aged 25, was discovered deep in the rubble, holding a cross.


Msgr. Bou-Hadir said that the Catholic youth had always resisted calls to leave the country, saying that he had – as Joe put it – to stay in order to “water the cedar,” the national symbol of Lebanon.  “Now, Joe has watered the cedar with his blood,” Added the priest.


A Helpless Country, Completely Dependent on International Aid


Both Msgr. Bou-Hadir and fellow Beirut ACN project partner Sister Hanan Youssef stressed the toll of the explosion on the people, saying they were totally dependent on international aid as Lebanon’s economic crisis had rendered the country helpless.


Sister Hanan told ACN: “I survived 15 years of civil war and yet I could not imagine such a horrible thing happening to our people.

More than ever, the people are in need of help. We are so grateful for the prayers and support of our dear friends at ACN.”


Acknowledging the generous response of benefactors to the ACN Lebanon Emergency Appeal, Neville Kyrke-Smith, the charity’s UK National Director, said: “I would like to thank those who are standing in solidarity with all who are suffering in Beirut at this tragic and painful time.”


“The support of ACN benefactors across Lebanon and elsewhere in the region is absolutely vital to sustain the Christian presence in the Middle East amidst the sufferings of conflict, violence, upheavals and tragedy.”


ACN Project of the Week – Burkina Faso Support for Catholic Radio

01.07.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Africa, Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Support for Catholic Radio

Support for a Catholic Radio Station
By ACN International Projects Department
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin
Published online July 2, 2020


For over 50 years now ACN has been supporting media-based evangelization, mainly via the radio waves. ACN founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, understood very early on how the modern media could help to reach people in remote regions where distances are an obstacle and where there are too few priests; bringing the Church to the faithful – where the faithful could not get to church.


Africa especially uses radio as a medium ideally suited to this purpose. Radio can reach people in remote and inaccessible parts of the vast continent and play a vital role, not only in spreading the Faith, but also in the fields of education, development and agriculture.


For over 10 years now, Burkina Faso has enjoyed diocesan radio stations and today 12 of the country’s 15 dioceses have their own radio transmitters. The bishops’ conference however, has decided to merge all these stations together, they now see the need to unite all their energies and pool their resources together given the numerous problems the country is facing.


Radio: Crucial in Times of Crisis

Radio presence is particularly significant in the northern part of the country where recent terrorist attacks and killings have left over three quarters of 1 million people homeless and caused more than 1,000 schools closures, spreading chaos and insecurity amidst the population.


In crisis regions radio is a crucial means of communicating with the people to accompany and strengthen them in their faith while keeping them informed. It also provides a means to relaying practical advice and counsel as the struggle to rebuild lives plays out. Also, at times it is used to provide a minimum of education to the children and young people. Radio is also a vital means of promoting peace and reconciliation.


The Impact of COVID-19

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has further underlined the importance of the role played by local radio, helping to inform people as to the best way of protecting themselves from the virus. And, last but not least, it plays a crucial role in enabling people to join in the Celebration of the Liturgy and pray together across the miles that separate them.


ACN is contributing $14,500 towards the establishment and improvement of this Catholic radio service.




Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.


17.06.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS

PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

Aid to the Church in Need – 2019 Report
Praying, informing and giving, more essential than ever before!

by ACN  International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published online June 17, 2020

Königstein-im-Taunus-Montreal, Wednesday June 17, 2020 – Close to 160 million dollars raised by Aid to the Church in Need last year.


With its 23 national offices and over 333,000 benefactors worldwide, the international pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), collected over $157.95 million in donations for persecuted Christians in need around the world in 2019, maintaining roughly the same level as in 2018.  To this is added a balance of $7.58 million carried over from the previous year, making it a total of $165.2 million, allowing for the funding of the total ensemble of activities for the international organization. Of this total, $132.8 million funded projects directly, the balance being divided among administrative costs, fundraising activities and information work.


Senegal : a Dominican Sister of the Immaculate Conception in Diassap. We support her community so they can concentrate on their work of helping young people.

In Canada, a modest player, although recognized year after year as a vital international organization, 5,000 benefactors contributed to the collecting $1.9 million, an amount that provided the financing for several programs, including urgent needs, mass offerings, and the special ‘Drop of Milk’ project in Syria.


“It is a tremendous challenge to continue, year after year, to speak about our brothers and sisters in the faith who are living in situations of great distress, whether because of religious persecution or material poverty,” explains Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada.  “I rejoice in the fact that more and more people are joining in solidarity, the younger generation in particular.”  In that respect, in Alberta, elementary school students have been learning about the issue of religious discrimination and persecution for the last two years. “They are impressive!” rejoices Mrs. Lalonde.


“Incidentally, with the COVID-19 pandemic, forms of discrimination and persecution have not taken a break,” she explains.  “So, along with continuing to support these Churches as we usually do, we help them to meet the needs of their community in this time of pandemic.  Pakistan is a sad example, where some Imams have called for a stop to helping the Christians affected by the effects of confinement.  So we were there,” relates Mrs. Lalonde, who relates that $7.5 million have already been dispatched by ACN to different corners of the world. “Support that will continue,” she assures.


Today, ACN estimates there are some 200 million Christians around the world who are unable to practice their faith freely, and there are over 80 countries in the world where the fundamental right to religious freedom is not guaranteed. At this moment in time, Christians are persecuted, oppressed or actively discriminated against in over 40 different countries.  In 2019, ACN continued to give voice to Christians experiencing persecution from institutions such as the UN and the European Union.


In Ukraine, children pray the Rosary for the International prayer campaign – One Million Children pray the Rosary

Support in over a third of all dioceses worldwide

With the additional help of some $7.28 million in donations carried forward from previous years, the charity was able to fund activities for a total of $165.2 million. Some 80.4% of these – or approximately $132.8 million – were spent on the three areas regarded by the charity as the main “pillars” of its mission: direct financial support via various aid projects, providing information about the situation of Christians in different countries, and encouraging Christians to pray for their suffering brethren.


Altogether, the charity supported 5,230 projects – an increase of 211 from 2018 – providing assistance for a wide range of different needs in 139 countries, above all in Africa and the Middle East, for a total value of $112.7 million benefitting 1,162 different dioceses, over one third of all the Catholic dioceses in the world.


Once again, Africa was the region in which most of ACN’s projects were located, with 29.6%, or almost a third, of the project funds allocated, making possible a total of 1,766 projects. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), owing to its vast size of over 2 million km² and the grave conflicts it is suffering, including international indifference, was the single country in Africa in which the greatest number of projects were realized in 2019, and the third worldwide. Here ACN funded 268 projects to a total of $4.9 million.


And, some 22.1% of the project aid allocated went to the support of the Christian minorities whose existence is threatened in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. In Syria, which is still suffering from the terrible civil war, ACN funded 132 projects for a total of almost $11.3 million, for the most part focused on basic emergency and survival aid. The other major beneficiary was Iraq where, following the rebuilding of over 6,000 homes in previous years, a new phase has begun for the reconstruction of places of worship and monasteries. Among the 50 major projects approved by the charity, for a total of $8.3 million in Iraq, was the rebuilding of the Al-Tahira cathedral in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian church in Iraq.


Syria : a family says ‘Thank you !’ to benefactors


Another country affected by warfare and grave economic poverty, yet at the same time spiritually rich, is Ukraine. This has been the priority country for ACN in Eastern Europe, with a total of almost 300 projects and over $5.9 million allocated in funding in 2019.


In Latin America, Venezuela has become the country in receipt of the most aid, after Brazil. Here, ACN funded 108 projects providing vital support for the Church in Venezuela and its people, for many of them the sole support in a country suffering from a profound political and economic crisis, social upheaval and the almost total lack of healthcare provision. Similarly in Asia, ACN’s priority has included aid for Pakistan and India, where Islamic religious fanaticism in the one, and extreme Hindu fundamentalism in the other, are bringing daily discrimination and danger to the ordinary lives of the Christian minorities there.


Venezuela: The Catholic Church stays one of the only institution to care for the population, on spiritual and material matters, in the midst of social, economical and political crisis with no precedent.


Outside of the geographical context, ACN has also supplied aid in the form of 1,378,635 Mass Offerings, which were celebrated in 2019 for the intentions of its benefactors representing some 15.9% of total donations. This has allowed the charity to support 40,096 priests – roughly one in every ten around the world. Most of the stipends were used not simply for the support of the priests themselves, but also for the benefit of the people by supporting their pastoral and social work.


For more information – please visit ACN Canada’s website: acn-canada.org.

+Read the Report

ACN Interview: COVID-19 With creativity and trust in God against the crisis

25.05.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, COVID19

ACN Interview:  COVID-19

With creativity and trust in God against the crisis

By Tobias Lehner, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web May 25, 2020

ACN supports Church work during the Coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19 is not only a medical, social and economic problem, but also a pastoral one. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the international pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has received many statements of solidarity from project partners all over the world, but also learned of growing hardships and the heroic efforts of priests and religious in the battle against Coronavirus. In response, the aid organization has initiated a special program to promote these efforts. Tobias Lehner spoke with Regina Lynch, project director at ACN, about current relief initiatives and the efforts of the Church during the COVID-19 crisis.


Regina Lynch, Director of Projects – Photo: Ilona Budzbon

What are we currently hearing from our project partners regarding the greatest needs in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic?

From our project partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe we are not so much hearing about medical needs but rather about the effects of the restrictions on the daily life of the Church. In most countries where Aid to the Church in Need supports the local Church, governments have applied the same restrictions as in our donor countries. That means no public Masses, no public gatherings, schools are closed and more and more people have difficulty in earning a living. And these in countries where, for the most part, Christians are a minority – sometimes persecuted – and belong to the lower social strata. The Church itself is hardest hit by the fact that there are no public Masses or the possibility to carry out the normal pastoral and social programs in the parishes. In many of our partner countries, the collection at Sunday Mass ensures the survival of the parish. The money from the collection – or often instead it can be chickens, vegetables, rice etc. – guarantees that the priest can eat, pay the Sisters serving the parish, buy gas for his motorcycle for visiting the sick or even have a small sum to help the poorest of the parishioners.

Bolivia: Sisters “Misioneras Siervas del Espíritu Santo” (without habits) in the distribution of masks, food and toys in the neighborhoods near Oruro.

What is the focus of ACN’s aid in response to the COVID-19 crisis?

As a pastoral charity, ACN wants to help the local Church carry out its primary mission of bringing God’s Love and Word to people and ensure that it is not hindered in this mission by a lack of financial resources. That means that we are providing subsistence aid to priests and to Sisters, both active and contemplative. We have continued to help the seminaries, as in many cases the seminarians are in confinement and the rector has no means to look after them. For example, in the major seminary in Goma, Dem. Rep. Congo, the rector sent us an SOS, as he could no longer rely on the local population to help feed the seminarians. We are providing funds for masks and other protective clothing to priests, sisters and seminarians, for example in Chile or in Ukraine, where they continue to visit their parishioners, particularly the sick or the dying. And in order to bring the Holy Mass and the gospel message to the faithful at home via television or radio, we have funded the necessary technical equipment. For the Christians in Syria, who were already struggling to survive after nine years of war, we are launching a special program enabling each family to buy food and some form of protection against the pandemic. In Pakistan, another country where Christians face discrimination and sometimes persecution because of their faith, we are working on a program to come to provide aid because we heard from the Church that the Christians were not receiving emergency aid from the government.

Ecuador: Sisters working during corona times, San Antonio de Cebadas parish. Visiting the families to bring the Holy communion.

ACN started an emergency program in order that the priests and Sisters could face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. What have you done so far and what are the next steps?

Thanks to the generosity of our donors since March, we have managed to send out more than 385,000 Mass Offerings (more than $5,250 million) to over 10,500 priests. More than half of these went to the Church in Africa, the continent where the Church and priestly vocations continue to grow but where the Church faces the challenge of an increasingly aggressive form of Islam, conflicts and natural disasters. So far, we have made promises of some $1.2 million as subsistence help to Sisters in all parts of the world and more requests are coming in. This has always been a strong focus of our help for Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America in particular, where the Sisters not only teach the catechism or prepare the faithful for the sacraments in isolated regions in Siberia or in the Andes, but where the sisters care for orphans, for the abandoned elderly or for girls forced into prostitution. One of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis is that we are being asked to help for the first time in dioceses where until now they have managed without our help. One example is the Diocese of Kamyanets-Podilsk in Ukraine, where normally the parish pays the sisters. With the absence of Sunday Mass and the growing poverty of the faithful, the bishop no longer can give the Sisters what they need to survive.

Bolivia: Teresianas Sisters working during corona times distributing food.

What about aid to Asia, where the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged?

The Archbishop of Chittagong in Bangladesh sent us an urgent appeal for the Sisters working in his archdiocese. With the schools, hostels and dispensaries closed, there is no income to pay the Sisters. Even before the crisis, the little amount that the faithful could contribute to the upkeep of the sisters was not enough but now the situation has become dramatic. In Mymensingh, also in Bangladesh, the Holy Cross Sisters together with the bishop are putting all the money available into helping the people, who are suffering, but the sisters need to survive and that is where ACN can help. In normal times the Holy Cross Sisters, like many  in the developing world, teach the Gospel and also teach the people the skills they need to leave behind their poverty.

Burkina Faso: Subsistence aid for the Sisters of Notre Dame du Lac de Bam

From the very beginning, ACN has been dedicated to helping not only the active, but also the contemplative orders. How are they faring?

We should also not forget the contemplative nuns, who responded enthusiastically to our prayer campaign at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic but who also depend on the generosity of the faithful and their own small income-generating initiatives for their survival. The Carmelite Monastery in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, have difficulty in surviving at the best of times by the production of hosts for Holy Mass but with the current restrictions there is no demand for the hosts and so the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz has appealed to generous donors of ACN to help the nuns through this difficult time.

We expect to continue these projects of support for priests and sisters for the next few months, because even if in some countries public Mases are beginning to recommence, the economic situation will worsen and our help will be needed more than ever. In other countries the pandemic is still raging.


Which project, where priests and Sisters respond to the COVID-19 crisis, has particularly impressed you?

It is very difficult to pick out one project. There are the priests in the Diocese of Dolisie, Congo, who share the stipend from our Mass intentions with their poor parishioners. I am also impressed by the devotion of so many sisters, who at risk to themselves continue their work. One example are the Hermanas Sociales in Cuba. While respecting the restrictions put in place, they still find a way to continue their pastoral work and their care of the elderly, who live alone, and their outreach to the homeless. There are the seminarians in the major seminary of St. Peter and St. Paul in Burkina Faso, whose families have become IDPs because of terrorist attacks. Now they have lost one of their formators due to the virus and four of their fellow students are ill. We have helped them and their families and are now also sponsoring a program to protect the rest of them from Covid-19. And we have to recognize the creativity of the Church. Quite early on in the crisis, Bishop Dode Gjergji of Kosovo realised that he had to try to reach his faithful despite the ban on public Masses and asked us to sponsor equipment for broadcasting Sunday Mass from the Mother Teresa co-cathedral in Pristina. We gladly provided him support and just recently he has told us that during one Holy Mass broadcast online in Albanian there were more than 50,000 people logged on. This is where we should not underestimate the power of the media. In Africa, where we support different initiatives of Radio Maria, the Church is encouraging the Catholic families to become a “domestic Church” during this time of COVID-19 and to pray even more intensively together.

Bukina Faso: Family attending to holy mass through a radio broadcast, Tenkodogo.

ACN is a pastoral charity: in public life the focus is on the humanitarian and medical sectors. How do we reconcile ACN’s response with these needs?

While a medical – and in many countries – humanitarian response to the COVID-19 crisis is absolutely necessary, this is first and foremost the responsibility of the local civil authorities. We know that in many countries where ACN helps, this does not happen and that NGOs and the Church do this work instead.  However, while the ministry of charity or diakonia is one of the ministries of the Church, the pastoral mission, the care of the soul precedes it and in this time of crisis the people need the Church more than ever. They are afraid and unsure of the future. The Church comforts and brings both spiritual and material help to not only its own flock but to all God’s people. We have just granted subsistence help to four elderly and sick Dominican Sisters in Subotica, Serbia. Their superior wrote to us, “The people of Subotica are grateful for the presence of the sisters, because they are the sign of God’s love for the people, the sign of everlasting life.”


Let us stay united in our support for our brothers and sisters in the faith!

ACN Project of the Week: Help to complete the new church in Egypt



Help for the completion of a new church and community centre in Abnee Baitak


Info from ACN International Projects Department
Poste online April 23, 2020

Abnee Baitak is a new satellite suburb of the town of Madinat as-Sadis min Uktubar, the “Town of the 6th of October,” itself, a relatively new satellite town close to the capital, Cairo. Abnee Baitak was built by the Egyptian government above all in order to provide living space for young families.

What this new suburb still lacks however, is a Catholic church. The nearest Catholic church is over 20 km away.

In 2015 the Egyptian Prime Minister granted a building permit for the construction of the Catholic Church here. Since it is far from easy to obtain such permits in Egypt, work began immediately on its construction. ACN helped at the time with $45,000 and now the building work on the new church and attached community centre for the various pastoral and social activities of the parish is well advanced.

In order to complete the work as quickly as possible, we have received another request and we are stepping in again with a further contribution of $45,000.

Thank you so much for your help in completing this project!

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK – Help for the formation of seminarians of a new spiritual community in Brazil

15.04.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS


Help for the formation of seminarians of a new spiritual community

By ACN International Projects Department,
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web April 15, 2020


The Opus Mariae community (known in Brazil as Eis aí tua mãe – Obra de Maria) was founded in Brazil in 1990 and now numbers around 3350 members worldwide, from all walks of life, including priests, deacons, consecrated religious, married couples and single people. Together, they  form one big family!

The community has now spread to 7 different Latin American countries, 22 African countries, to Israel and Palestine as well as in Europe to Italy and Portugal. One of the community’s  missions involves organizing pilgrimages for thousands of participants to visit religious shrines all over the world. They  also organize  congresses, retreats and concerts in the service of evangelization; active in the media apostolate and the youth and vocations apostolate. there are also  social work projects geared towards, among other things, people suffering from   addictions.


Fruits of the community

A particularly attractive feature of this community’s work is the growing number of priestly vocations it has produced. Currently there are 50 young men from the community training for the priesthood in the archdiocese of Olinda and Recife. They include young men from Brazil and from the African countries of Togo, Benin and Mozambique.

The leaders of the community have turned to us for help to cover the cost of the formation of these seminarians from this still very young community, Benefactors donations will help  to pay for their room and board along with study fees.

ACN has already helped in the past, with $123,000 dollars of support for the formation of 23 seminarians. We are planning to help again this year.  Would you like to help?

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

COVID-19 Pandemic Aid to the Church in Need still needs you!

09.04.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS

COVID-19 Pandemic
Aid to the Church in Need still needs you!

Montreal, April 7, 2020 – Despite the COVID-19 pandemic raging around the world, the activities of the Canadian Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) office continue in teleworking mode. “More than ever, churches in need around the world need us,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director. “People can continue to support them by using our website.”

Ms. Lalonde indicated that, at this time, we can respond in solidarity to the Church in need through, among other things, Mass intentions for priests, subsistence assistance for Sisters and for the Catholic media. Actually, in many countries, these are the only ones able to communicate health directives to their listeners. Moreover, they provide spiritual support to the Christians who are listening. They are broadcasting liturgies specially prepared for the radio in this Holy Week that is just beginning. “The Catholic media not only invite people to follow the rules, but also inform and comfort people who would otherwise be alone and uninformed,” says Ms. Lalonde.

“There is also a need to support priests and nuns who are frontline workers in many countries. We can always help priests with masses, but for Sisters, we have to help them to survive,” says Ms. Lalonde.

Furthermore, messages of solidarity are coming from everywhere. “Every day we receive messages of encouragement and prayerful solidarity from all our partners. So, we continue the work and we want to let all our benefactors know that they can continue to make donations through our website: http://acn-canada.org/, by clicking on the red button marked ‘Donate’ at the top of the page.”

Lastly, ACN Canada is active in social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms. “I hope all of our supporters are taking care of themselves. As we begin Holy Week, I hope they keep up their courage and that they can still have moments of joy in these difficult times,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde.

To donate online on the Aid to the Church in Need Canada website, http://acn-canada.org/.

Holy Week — ACN International Reflection by Father Martin Barta, International Ecclesiastical Assistant

03.04.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, COVID19, Prayer

Holy Week — ACN International

Reflection by Father Martin Barta, International Ecclesiastical Assistant


The project partners of the 23 Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) national offices are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As these words are written, over one million people around the world have contracted the virus around the world, and over 50,000 people are dead.


Thanks to the ability to work from home like many others in these unique times, our ACN offices around the world have remained active and continue to receive information on a regular basis from our project partners. They are also living the terrible effects of this virus that was completely unknown to the general public only a few short months ago.

As we enter into Holy Week, International Ecclesiastical Assistant Father Martin Barta, offers us a reflection about the mystery that is death and the Resurrection – a reading that becomes all the more enriching during these difficult times.

Enjoy the read and have a good Holy Week.

Read Father Martin’s letter

ACN Information – Syria: love, prayers and solidarity in these difficult times

31.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Syria

ACN Information – Syria

From Syria with love, prayers and solidarity

ACN project partner’s heart-felt coronavirus message

By John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web March 31, 2020


Sister Annie Demerjian, an intrepid nun, who coordinates emergency relief in Syria, has responded to the coronavirus pandemic by sending a message of prayer and solidarity to friends and benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need.


In an audio message sent Friday, March 27, Sister Annie, a project partner of Aid to the Church in Need, tells the charity’s supporters: “do not panic” and “follow the instructions about healthcare.”


The Religious of Jesus and Mary Sister goes on to thank ACN benefactors for their near decade-long help providing food baskets and sanitary items, clothing and medicine for the most vulnerable in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, pledging to pray for benefactors in this time of emergency.


“We need to help one another”


“It is very painful what the world is passing through at this time,” says Sister Annie. “In this situation of the coronavirus, do not panic about the news. Follow the instructions about healthcare. Describing how she and her Sisters are praying the Rosary every day “for the world,” she said: “Our faith is not like pressing a magic button and expecting everything to be OK. The pain and suffering is there but we must also not forget the Resurrection is there every day.”

Drawing on her experiences in Aleppo, northern Syria: “We need to help those who are most in need. We need to help each other, lift each other’s spirits and things will pass.”

Sister Annie, who warns of the impact of the virus on a Syria still reeling from years of conflict, said: “In Aleppo, our groups of volunteers are continuing, visiting homes where it is safe to do so and taking great care. We are helping the old people, especially because so many of them have no other support, and in Damascus our Sisters are helping some old people, buying what they need so they will not have to go out. People have nothing to rely on. How will they survive?”

She goes on to report progress with a supermarket voucher program for 260 families, especially for elderly people dependant on them, and a rent-payment program for the most vulnerable.

Sister Annie adds: “To all our ACN benefactors, we say very sincerely: ‘Thank you for your enormous generosity. You have helped us for so many years and continue to do so.’

“May God continue to bless you and keep you and your families safe and well.”


All around the world, the members of the Catholic Church are actively comforting people most touched by this pandemic provoked by Covid-19.  In many countries Sisters are nurses, they manage the dispensaries, the homes for the elderly and other health related institutions.  Helping them through this crisis means supporting the presence of the Church for the weakest members of society. Aid to the Church in Need around the world will continue to support the Church in every way possible.


Thank you for continuing your support, in any way you find possible.

Covid-19 pandemic – Letter from the international president of ACN

23.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Thomas Heine-Geldern

Königstein, Germany,

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International Headquarters 

Le 18 mars 2020


Dear Friends,

On Ash Wednesday this year, as we were all preparing to begin the Lenten season, none of us could have imagined that this time of penance would become such a challenging one for us. In a very short space of time we have found that our earthly security and freedom have been shattered by a pandemic.

Never before has any of us experienced such an exceptional situation. Civic measures that until a few weeks ago would have seemed unthinkable to us, we are now accepting as justified and reasonable. But how well is our faith and our sense of security in God going to withstand such unexpectedly shattering developments?

It is only natural that our first and foremost concern should be for those known to us who have fallen victim to this virus; that we should be thinking of the elderly whom we are no longer permitted to visit, or the grandchildren whom the older ones among us can no longer take into our arms. And for many people, including many of you no doubt, there are now the financial worries as well.

Many of our suffering and persecuted brothers and sisters still have to manage without any of these technological aids.

Moreover, we are now finding that we can no longer take for granted the fact that we can attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion. This is already the plight of many of our brothers and sisters in the mission lands, or those living under dictatorships. They have to struggle to be able to participate in Holy Mass and the Sacraments. And perhaps we too now have a much clearer understanding of what it means to live as the domestic 

church with our children and pray together with them. That is what they already have to do in places where there are no churches. And we at least have the technology that enables us to follow the religious services via live streaming or other electronic means. In this way it is made easier for us to remain in contact not only with God but also with our friends and with the global community of the Catholic faithful. Many of our suffering and persecuted brothers and sisters still have to manage without any of these technological aids.

“…we can always lift up our hearts in prayer for one another…”

During this Lenten season we will have to follow Jesus Christ into the desert in a much more immediate way. In our fears and concerns we are experiencing more clearly what it means at times to feel abandoned even by God. But we can always lift up our hearts in prayer for one another. And we can find strength in the certainty that the bridge of love and faith between our benefactors, the staff and co-workers of ACN and our project partners all over the world remains as strong as ever and that our shared prayer will help us to overcome this global crisis. So it is that in the last few days especially we have received countless messages from our friends in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Haiti and the Philippines assuring us of their prayers for all the benefactors of ACN.

“…we can find strength in the certainty that the bridge of love and faith between our benefactors, the staff and co-workers of ACN and our project partners all over the world remains as strong as ever…”

Our everyday life has changed dramatically. But let us take comfort in the old truism that reminds us that every crisis is also an opportunity. In this case it is an opportunity to use the extra time we suddenly have on our hands to grow inwardly, to come closer to God and at the same time to bring to him in our prayers all our near and dear ones – spouses, children, siblings and parents. And likewise of course all our brothers and sisters in the faith, both those around us and those in the wider world.

“Every crisis is also an opportunity”

We can do this in our prayer, whether private or shared, and we can do so by offering up all our trials and anxieties in the coming weeks for all those whom for the present we cannot directly help or those whose plight, whether through sickness or loneliness, is still harder than our own. Let us also think of those families whose life is made particularly hard by their cramped living conditions. And please let us not forget our brothers and sisters in those countries where Christians continue even now to be persecuted and discriminated against – they often have far more serious worries than this virus. Let us for example continue to support with our Mass Offerings all those priests in our partner countries who will celebrate Holy Mass for our intentions.

“Today I would like to urge you to help us further develop the three pillars of ACN‘s work, namely prayer, information and action”

Again and again over the past years it has been my privilege to thank you for your generosity and your help for our suffering brothers and sisters. Today I would like to urge you to help us further develop the three pillars of ACN‘s work, namely prayer, information and action, in creative fidelity to our founding mission, so that we can turn this crisis into an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ.

It may be that the penitential season will last rather longer than the time envisaged in the calendar, but Easter will come nonetheless. Let us together use this time of trial in such a way that we may then experience still more profoundly the Mystery of the Resurrection.


This is my wish for each one of us.

I remain, united in prayer with you all,

Thomas Heine-Geldern

President, ACN International