In the federal state of Amazonas in Brazil, stands Tefé’s parish of Saint Anthony established in 2007. This parish encompasses three smaller communities who have chapels in the town itself and an additional three communities in the surrounding rural area. The parish is under the care of the Franciscan Fathers and it is faced with significant challenges.
In the Amazonas, there is a great shortage of priests. It also is home to numerous sects scattered throughout who attempt to woo the Catholic faithful and it is an area which experiences high social tensions.
The presence and compassion of Father Jailton Raimundo is essential. Ensuring he has a place to practice his apostolate is just as essential.
The members of the sub-parish of Our Lady of Fatima are particularly active, and this is positive for it gives the local priests strong support in their social and pastoral work. Above all, this support is most important when it come to working with youth, for many young people easily fall easy prey to negative influences, to drug dealers and human traffickers or ‘pimps’.
To counter this problem, the parish really wants to build a pastoral which will serve to attract and spiritually nourish children and young people who are caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and abuse on the streets like so many other communities throughout the country.
The parish is already very active in this work and in addition to the catechesis and other religious activities; the community also offers music lessons in keyboard and guitar, so to provide young people with a meaningful and productive alternative. It also allows them to bring their personal contribution to the liturgy, making it more beautiful with their music.
Other areas of work the parish committed to, are helping disabled people find work, and supporting families
Celebrating Mass outside with the children!
in need. They also have a psychologist available to see people once a week, another important form of support for some.
This pastoral centre is important. Why? Because it provides a central point for the organization of all these important social services, for there is a real danger that without this resource, many young people in particular might turn their backs on the Church and end up on the difficult life of the streets, or get caught in the clutches of the local sects or criminal gangs.
ACN is supporting the work on this catechetical centre with a contribution of $24,650.
They have one desire – to remain in their “beloved homeland”
Msgr Louis Sako, here in 2014 before the European Parliament : “The war in Iraq and Syria is taking on apocalyptic dimensions.” (Photo: EPP Press Service).
In a dramatic appeal to “all who help us through Aid to the Church in Need”, Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Syria, and Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Christians in Iraq, are calling for a day of prayer and fasting so that God “may finally grant our country the long-awaited peace.”
In separate letters to the benefactors and friends of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the two church leaders in Syria and Iraq have called upon them to join them in praying and fasting for the Christians in Iraq and Syria on Ash Wednesday. They wrote that Ash Wednesday is to be a joint day of supplication to God.
War has “apocalyptic dimensions”, in the “cradle of Christianity”
Both patriarchs thank the benefactors for their help, without which “many of us would be dead, have starved to death, frozen or already fled.” To quote Patriarch Sako, “We are all very thankful for this help. However, what is most needed is mercy. For this reason I would like to ask you at the beginning of this Lenten period and especially on Ash Wednesday: pray and fast for peace in our country! Pray and fast that God has mercy on us! Pray and fast that we may remain in our homelands, that the refugees may return to their villages and cities.”
According to Bishop Sako, “the war in Iraq and Syria is taking on apocalyptic dimensions.”
The human race is facing the largest humanitarian catastrophe since the end of World War II. Once thriving cities such as Mosul and the villages on the Nineveh plains have been reduced to rubble. “Those who could flee, did. Millions of children in refugee camps are waiting for their daily bread, but they thirst for a future, they want schools and a home. They want to return to their homelands, as do their parents and relatives.” In this situation, Aid to the Church in Need is “like a mother to us,” Patriarch Sako said. “I know that you are also doing this out of love for Christ. And that is the reason for my request: pray and fast that we may remain in our beloved homeland. So that we may also experience a resurrection from the rubble, an Easter in the Land of Abraham.”
S.B. Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church on Syria. “For five years we have been journeying through the desert”
Patriarch Gregorios drew attention to the dramatic situation in Syria, the “cradle of Christianity”.
“Our faith is put to the test day after day. We see the suffering of the children, the pain of the parents, we are surrounded by hatred and death. We want to be able to live in peace once more in our beloved homeland.” For five years now, Patriarch Gregorios said, “we have been wandering through the desert. For us, your continuous help is like the manna that God gave to the Israelites to save them from starvation.”
The Christians in Syria “steadfastly believe that the Way of the Cross is necessary to achieve the glory of Resurrection.
However, even the Lord Himself had comforters and helpers at His side on the way to Golgotha: Simeon of Cyrene helped Christ carry the cross, Saint Veronica passed Him the veil, His Most Holy Mother and St. John the Apostle stood at the foot of the cross.” And so the Christians in Syria are hoping “for the comfort and aid of our brothers and sisters” and are now cordially asking people to join them on Ash Wednesday “for a day of fasting and prayer, a day on which we would like to entreat God together that He may finally grant our country the long-awaited peace.” Patriarch Gregorios concluded his letter with the words: “Your prayers, your encouragement and your support help us in our suffering. For this reason I would like to extend my invitation once more:
Please fast and pray with us! It is impossible that the Lord will not answer the combined prayers and sacrifices of His children. The most heartfelt thanks for everything!”
The international charity “Aid to the church in need” embraces the appeal of the patriarchs from Syria and Iraq. Under the slogan “Will you carry the cross for one day with them? Fast and pray on Ash Wednesday for Iraq and Syria,” ACN calls Christians from all over the world to fast and pray intensively on Ash Wednesday (February 10th). That way Christians can unite spiritually with their suffering brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq.
The campaign will be advertised in the social media with the hashtags
Since March of 2011, Aid to the Church in Need has granted aid money totaling40,121,500 million Canadian dollarsto Christians and members of other religions in Syria and Iraq. Last month, the aid organisation began 19 aid programs, and will add another 20 emergency aid programs in the coming months.
A profound celebration for Middle Eastern Christians
Nearly 150 people came together last Friday, January 22, at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, in order to pray for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Presided over by the Archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lépine, the Mass – which was jointly organized by the Archdiocese of Montreal and the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) – was an occasion to recall their current suffering.
“When I am speaking of religious persecution, many are incredulous. They don’t think it still exists in this 3rd millennium,” indicated Marie-Claude Lalonde, the National Director of ACN’s Canadian office. “There are currently 200 million Christians in the world that cannot practice their faith freely. They are scattered across every continent: Asia, Africa, South America and even Europe,” she said.
“We pray for all those who are left behind and welcome all those who are settling in here with us,” she declared before adding: “It is our duty as Christians to denounce the discrimination and violence that have victimized them. It is our duty […] to pray for them.” She also proposed an action with an evangelical accent which was to invite the participants, “in this Year of Mercy,” to “pray for their [persecuted Christians] torturers. Who knows what will happen if one of them were to convert… as did Saint Paul long ago.”
According to many participants, the celebration was very profound and richly animated with songs offered by the choir of Saint Éphrem Syrian Catholic church in Laval. Also in the program was the deeply touching testimonial of Mina Aro, a young Syrian refugee and new arrival to Montreal. “We could no longer live like humans,” she testified. “I cannot forget those who have died because of their faith. I also ask you to pray for the people who stayed in Syria that they continue to keep their faith in God.”
From left to right: Msgr Paul Marwan-Tabet, Eparch of the Maronites in Canada; Brian Cordero, permanent deacon and member of the board of directors for ACN Canada; Msgr Christian Lépine, archbishop of Montreal and member of the International board of directors of Aid to the Church in Need.
The strength of prayer was evoked throughout the ceremony. “Pray,” insisted Msgr Lépine in his homily. He then recounted the extent to which the few encounters he has had with persecuted Christians had left an impression on him, through the peace these people emit, they who by all rights should be in a constant state of anger.
The archbishop also recalled the subject of persecution as being a current one, as we often have the impression that the story of Christian martyrs is one from the past. However “it is happening now as I speak,” he recalled.
Several co-celebrants and deacons participated in the celebration including Msgr Paul Marwan Tabet, Bishop for Catholic Maronites in Canada.
In 2015, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) support to local churches in Iraq surpassed 15 million dollars and totaled over 8 million dollars in Syria. These amounts do not include the help already given where Christians are living as refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Support for the life and ministry of three religious Sisters
CAMEROON in the MBALMAYO : Sister Celestyna is visiting an elderly women at home
The Sisters of Divine Providence have been working in Cameroon since 1999. They also established a house in the diocese of Mbalmayo, in 2002, at the very centre of the country where they are now living and working at the mission station of Ayos.
The Sisters have taken over a school from the French Sisters, which serves as a practical and vocational training centre for women and young girls. Currently there are 47 women and 14 girls here being taught to sew and embroider. And in 2012, the sisters opened a health centre where they are able to treat a range of different illnesses. They also run a maternity centre where, last year alone, no fewer than 236 children first saw the light of day.
There are just three Sisters working here in Ayos: Sister Celestyna is the Superior and a trained nurse who is in charge of the health centre and who also teaches the girls and young women about hygiene and leads a group called “Friends of Divine Providence.” Sister Danuta gives catechetical instruction and also teaches the young women and girls sewing and embroidery; whereas Sister Gaelle is responsible for the religious instruction of the younger children of the parish. Her lessons are very popular, to say the least – with 300 children taking part! She is also responsible for the parish library.
These religious Sisters are performing a precious and vital service for the people and community around them. They work very hard, yet they receive absolutely no remuneration, working as they do out of pure love for God and their fellow men.
But they still have to live somehow, and so they have turned to us for help. We are proposing to support them in their life and ministry with a contribution of $2,175 which will last them an entire year.
Would you like to help with this or similar projects?
The old, classic cars that are so typical of the towns and cities of Cuba are a great attraction for tourists who love to photograph them. For the people of the country itself however, the situation is not so rosy.
The trade embargo, imposed after the Cuban revolution of 1959, led to a complete stop in the import of US vehicles into the country. As a result, until 2011, the only vehicles obtainable in the country were those built prior to 1959. However, since 2011 it has been possible to trade privately in second-hand cars, and since 2013 there has been a progressive easing on the import of new vehicles. Nonetheless, the prices of new vehicles are astronomical, with a simple mid-range vehicle costing in excess of $290,000 dollars!
Slovakian priest, Father Radoslav Kottra and Father Hans Weibel from Switzerland are both Divine Word Missionaries (also known as Steyler Missionaries), both work in Mayari in the diocese of Holguin each ministering to several different parishes. But their cars are already old and the situation isn’t improving for the other priests of the diocese either!
Their cars all need new motors, batteries and tires. But new cars are something that these priests dare not even dream of. Yet there is at least some good news for them, since the visit of Pope to their diocese, the authorities finally granted the Church some special import licences for certain specific items.
Cuba, September 2010 – a preferred transit method!
Now, they can at least purchase certain urgently needed spare parts. ACN is helping with $17,400 CAN to ensure these ancient vehicles belonging to Cuba’s priests in the Diocese of Hologuin are kept on the road for a little while longer.
Thank you to our benefactors who make funding projects like this one in Cuba, possible!
Montreal, Tuesday January 12, 2016 – The Archbishop of Montreal, Msgr Christian Lépine will be presiding over a special Mass dedicated especially to persecuted Christians in the Middle-East on Friday January 22 at 7:30pm, at the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in partnership with the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The symbol super-imposed on the ACN logo is that of the ‘Nazarene’ a symbol of solidarity with persecuted Christian
“The worldwide situation is difficult and persecution is not backing down, much to the contrary,” says ACN Canada director, Marie-Claude Lalonde, when asked why dedicate a celebration of the Eucharist to it. “We want to show our solidarity with them by praying for and with them. We also wish to pray for the migrants and pray with those who are now here.”
The celebration is the fruit of a second consecutive year of collaboration between the most important Catholic francophone diocese in Canada and the Canadian office of the international charity.
The Middle East: World epicenter of persecution against Christians
If religious persecution against Christians in present in around the planet, the last report produced by ACN – Persecuted and Forgotten? 2013- 2015 – and translated into French by the Canadian office last December – reveals what many observers of the Middle-East have feared for close to 10 years: Christians may well completely disappear from the Middle East.
In the summer of 2014, the Chaldean Archdiocese of Mosul even declared that it was the end of a 1,900 year continual Christian presence in the region,” indicates the report. With scenes that would make frighteningly resembled the Nazi persecution of the Jews, doors of Christians were marked with the letter “N” for “Nazarene,” signifying they were Christian.
The report also relays that Christians could remain in the city if they paid the Islamic Jizya tax. “But this was changed and Christians were subsequently told to convert or ‘there is nothing for [you] but the sword’.”
The Mary Queen of the World cathedral is situated at the corners of Mansfield and René-Lévesque Blvd West.
The main entrance is on René Lévesque.
The closest metro station is Bonaventure on the Orange line.
Support for the prison ministry in the diocese of Faisalabad
Life in a Pakistani prison is truly punishing. Torture is common-place, and the prison conditions are often appalling. The prison cells are tiny and overfilled, and a hundred prisoners often have to share a single toilet. Prisoners often die of heat stroke or heart attack, and dozens of prisoners die in custody every year.
For Christians the conditions are still worse than for their Muslim fellow prisoners. Given that even in “normal life” they are oppressed and discriminated against, it is hardly surprising that their conditions of imprisonment are still more precarious. Again, since most of the Christians are among the poorest in society, their families cannot afford to bribe their jailers, as others do. As a result, and unlike the Muslim prisoners, the Christian inmates almost never receive visitations from their relatives.
“I was in prison and you visited me.” Matthew, . 25 v. 26
There are approximately 5,000 people in the prisons of Faisalabad, the third-largest city in Pakistan. Of these between 85 and 100 are Christian, most of whom have been imprisoned for relatively minor offences, such as drug possession, illegal trade in alcohol and other similar offences. Many of them would have already long since been released if they had been able to afford the fines imposed on them. But since they are too poor to pay the fines, they are left sitting in prison.
A great blessing for prisoners
Once a month, however, and on major holidays the authorities in Faisalabad do at least permit Catholic priests to enter the prisons and talk and pray with any inmates who wish to do so. This is a great blessing for the prisoners. The pastoral care provided by the Church benefits not only the prisoners themselves but also their family members – above all when the prisoner has been the sole breadwinner of his family. In such cases his imprisonment can inflict extreme poverty on his wife and children, and here too the priests do their best to ease the worst of the need. They also endeavour wherever possible to promote reconciliation between the families of the victims and those who have committed the offence.
ACN has supported this prison ministry in the past and will continue to do so this year with a contribution of $8,700 CAN.
Text : ACN international Adapted by: Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada – email@example.com
Support for the life and work of religious Sisters
Franciscan Sisters in Zitniza and Rakovski support the poor. We are providing them with 2,175 CAN dollars so they can continue to help, just as Sister Francoise as above with this elderly woman.
In the towns of Zitnitza and Rakovski, in the diocese of Plovdiv in the south of Bulgaria, there is a community of five Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Their congregation was founded in the 19th Century and is present today in 20 countries of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
The Sisters preach the Gospel through their example of active service for the poor.
Catholics make up only a very small minority in the total population of Bulgaria of around 7.3 million souls. There are only about 80,000 Catholics living in this country. As a Catholic priest or religious you need to have a great deal of patience. Anyone who expects quick results here, has got it wrong. “We are working for the next generation,” the priests and Sisters agree.
In Zitnitza and Rakovski, the Sisters help the sick and the elderly and do home visits when the priest is unable to do so. They also give catechetical instruction and teach religious education in the schools.
Although Bulgaria is a member state of the European Union, around one fifth of the population nevertheless lives in poverty. So there is plenty of work for the sisters in their ministry to the poor and needy. But at the same time the sisters themselves are in need of help, since their living costs are rising relentlessly.
Each year, ACNhas made an effort to help these Sisters make ends meet. This year is no exception: once again they have turned to us for help. Sister Francoise writes,
This year, we are helping the Sisters with a contribution of $2,175 CAD.
Would you like to help us, help them?
Text: ACN International English Canadian adaptation: Amanda Bridget Griffin
Msgr Marcuzzo, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Auxiliary Bishop
“Exercising mercy and demanding justice belong together”
The Holy Doors in Bethlehem and Nazareth will soon be opened – Auxiliary Bishop Marcuzzo from Nazareth emphasizes the role forgiveness in the Holy Land as also having political dimensions
“The Holy Year of Mercy is very important for the Holy Land. It has spiritual, but also social and political dimensions,” Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of the Latin Patriarchate and patriarchal vicar for Israel, emphasized. In an interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the bishop, who resides in Nazareth (Israel), explained that the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis should transform both the individual Christian as well as the Christian community.
According to Auxiliary Bishop Marcuzzo, both belong together. “This year is an opportunity to grow in the faith and active love. Mercy is exercising love in difficult situations. The circumstances of the Holy Land, however, are such that the individual faithful Christian is called upon to make a heroic testimony of love.” According to Bishop Marcuzzo, the most important outcome of the Holy Year for the individual would be the rediscovery of the sacrament of penance. “To begin with, I am hoping for a more mature, more conscious and more adult return to the sacrament of confession. This is above all a matter of the individual, but it does also have a social dimension. Because people who are willing to change their ways are also willing to do things for others. We hope that this will lead to more solidarity and selflessness. A Christian has to prove himself to be stronger than the brother of the brother. This is true for the relationships of Christians among each other, but also for associations with members of other religions, whether they are Muslims, Jews or Druze. You have to accept the other in his otherness.”
The church does not ask of us to be
merciful but stop calling for justice
The auxiliary bishop highlighted a decisive aspect of mercy is the willingness to bestow forgiveness. In light of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of course, the discourse on forgiveness is a special challenge for the primarily Palestinian Christians of the Holy Land. “At the moment, the people are asking me how they can live mercy and forgiveness following such great injustices as those caused by the wars and the violence they experience. There is no easy answer. But one thing is clear, we cannot on the one hand exercise mercy and stop demanding justice. We have to bring them into sync with each other. The church does not ask of us to be merciful but stop calling for justice.” Bishop Marcuzzo mentioned examples from other contexts. “Of course, for us Christians, Jesus Christ is the quintessential example of how this is done. But he was also followed by people who tried to bring mercy and justice into sync. I believe that within his context Gandhi, for example, was the perfect example of this way of living. We can also let this inspire us as Christians in the Holy Land.”
The Holy Door will be opened in Bethlehem on the 24th, in Nazareth on the 27th of December.
In the midst of the hellish conditions that have overshadowed Aleppo, Sister Annie endeavours to give the people a merry Christmas – Aid to the Church in Need is supporting her
Christmas music, colourful balloons, lights and a Christmas tree: Sister Annie and her helpers have decorated the church hall for the festive season. Gifts are being handed out. Happy faces can be seen. Small children are racing around. There’s a lot of laughter. And yet – this pre-Christmas idyll allows the people of Aleppo to forget at most for a short while the circumstances in which they are forced to live.
“Two days ago missiles struck quite near us. Six people were killed. A few days before an apartment building had been hit. Nobody was hurt but a lot of people were injured. Injured often means that people have lost arms and legs. This is an everyday occurrence for us. No-one knows whether he’ll get home alive whenever he leaves his house. All we have left is our trust in God,” reports Sister Annie .
“Recently I visited a family who were living in their apartment which had been destroyed by a missile. My heart wept. It was such a terrible sight.”
This Armenian-Catholic nun of the Community of Jesus and Mary has held out for years in Aleppo, a town ravaged by the Syrian war. The government and the rebels hold different parts of the town. Time and time again they fight one another. Together with her co-sisters and helpers she is serving Aleppo’s Christians by endeavouring to provide clothing, heating, rent assistance and medicines.
Gifts: Clothing made in Aleppo
Aid to the Church in Need is supporting Sister Annie in her initiative. Hundreds of thousands of Christians once lived in this prosperous commercial metropolis in the north of Syria. Today only a few tens of thousands remain in a city where large parts have been destroyed. “Life here is so difficult. For days on end there is no electricity or water. It’s bitterly cold in the winter in particular. Recently I visited a family who were living in their apartment which had been destroyed by a missile. My heart wept. It was such a terrible sight.”
As in previous years, Sister Annie is endeavouring to give the people a merry Christmas. “We distribute trousers, pullovers and jackets to the people. They’re often unable to buy new things for themselves. That’s why such things are so important for them specifically in the winter.”
Sister Annie and her volunteers have been preparing the project since September. 12,000 items of clothing have been made for 3,000 needy people. “The clothes have been made by Christian tailors here in Aleppo. They told me that they are so grateful for the orders. This is how they get work to feed their families.”
Christmas presents for the people of AlHassekeh and Aleppo – warm clothing for the winter ahead.
Christians are not only being helped in Aleppo but also in Hasake, a town in the north-east of Syria. “Formerly we were able to transport the relief aid from Aleppo to Hasake by truck. But because Daesh (the terrorist group “Islamic State”) has now conquered the area between these two places this is no longer so easy. We have therefore sent the clothes by air. The priest with whom we work has reported that they arrived safely.”
ACN announces additional aid
The situation in the Near-East is not seeing improvement. Therefore a series of supplementary emergency measures have been taken and announced by ACN for Iraqis as well as Syrians who have fled persecution. For Syria: 19 aid programs have been launched. All in all, projects financed to support Christians in Syria have totaled $14,500,000 CAN since the onset of the conflict in 2011.
However, Aid to the Church in Need has supported Sister Annie’s Christmas project for years now. “Without Aid to the Church in Need I wouldn’t be able to give the people anything. For me it is one of God’s miracles that things are different. We are so grateful to the benefactors for their generosity. Just now we celebrated a Holy Mass to pray for them. And the people also bless the benefactors when they hear who the gifts are from.” Since Friday last week Sister Annie has been distributing clothes to the needy from ten o’clock in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon.
“We don’t want the people to feel they are beggars. That’s why we’ve decorated the distributing room so nicely. We’re also trying to talk to them all. It isn’t only supposed to be a clothing distribution point, but a place where people can meet one another.” When they come, Sister Annie says, the people complain about their everyday sufferings. “This is the fifth Christmas festival that Syrian’s Christians will be celebrating in conditions of war. The people no longer have joy in their hearts. Of course, they will go to church. But the joy which we all used to feel at Christmas has gone. It has been replaced by sadness.”
She reports about an old man who told her despondently that he and his wife were alone at Christmas. “Formerly all his sixteen children and grandchildren celebrated with them. Now they’re all gone, fled. Only the two old people are left.” Many have suffered the fate of this elderly couple. They had lost relatives in the attacks, their sons were serving in the army or the children had fled. “In every household there is a sad story to be told,” Sister Annie explains. “But the people trust in God. And they are happy that their fellow Christians in other countries have not forgotten them.”