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ACN International

 

ACN Press Release – Christian Churches unite to rebuild on the Nineveh Plains

31.03.2017 in By Daniele Piccini, Press Release

Nineveh Plains  

Christian churches unite to rebuild

 

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the Syriac Catholic Bishop, the Chaldean Catholic Bishop and two Syriac Orthodox bishops signed an agreement in Erbil to help Christians from the Nineveh Plains rebuild their homes, destroyed by ISIS in 2014.

 

Hope has returned to the hearts of Christians who were forced to flee the devastating advance of troops from the terror organization, Islamic State.  Two and half years later, a seeming eternity for the displaced peoples, the return of the Christians to the Nineveh Plain to their villages and homes is finally foreseeable.

 

On March 27 at the offices of the archdiocese of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil, a signing ceremony took place reflecting the agreement reached between three Christian churches in Iraq: the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church.  The agreement formally establishes the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC) tasked with planning and supervising a program of rebuilding Christian houses. The Committee is composed of six members chosen from the above three churches (two representatives each) and of three external experts suggested by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The international pontifical charity will concern itself with advocacy and fundraising.

From left to right: Msgr. Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany,Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and prior of the Monastery of Saint Matthew, Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul, Father Halemba, Head of the Middle East section for ACN,  Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan, Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi of Alqosh.

So that Christians can “go home”

According to assessments more, than 12,000 homes need rebuilding – those burned, destroyed or partially damaged by ISIS – the organization is estimating the cost of this operation will be in excess of 290 million dollars. The funds gathered will be allocated to each Church in proportion to the number of damaged houses within their own faith community.

Iraq Batnaya: more than 12,000 homes will be rebuilt to insure the return of Christians to their homeland.

After the signing ceremony, Msgr. Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany, Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and prior of the Monastery of Saint Matthew emphasized the initiative’s double historical importance. On the one hand the ecumenical spirit that made this possible and on the other, the real possibility for thousands of Christians to return to their ancestral roots and to a life in dignity.

“We would like to thank ACN, which has helped us so much in the past, by providing help and food. Now this charity is playing a crucial role in the rebuilding of our houses.”

“Today,” he said, “we are truly a united Church – Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic – united in the work of rebuilding these houses on the Nineveh Plains and in restoring hope to the hearts of the inhabitants of these villages and inviting those who have left them to return.” The archbishop then went on to thank for the important role of ACN in developing this initiative: “We would like to thank ACN, which has helped us so much in the past, by providing help and food. Now this charity is playing a crucial role in the rebuilding of our houses.”

 

The fact that this principle of unity and of speaking with “one voice” has prevailed is a source of great satisfaction for Father Andrzej Halemba, responsible for the pontifical foundation’s Middle East section. ACN will closely follow the committee’s work, though solely in the start-up phase. In subsequent phases, the organization will limit itself to seeking the possible sources of funding, mainly from among major international benefactors. “What we have done to support this initiative,” said Father Halemba, visibly gratified at the signing of the accord, “We have not this done for money. We have done it to ensure that the Christians can remain in Iraq. We are working for God.”

Speaking about unity between the Christian churches, Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul also emphasized: “I would like to invite the Christians of the Nineveh Plains to return to their homes and resume living in their villages, in order to bear witness to Christianity. Today we join together to demonstrate that we are united in our wish to accelerate this operation as rapidly as possible, and that it must start as soon as possible.”

 

Father Salim, a Chaldean Jesuit, beside the remains of his family home.

The courage of the three Christian churches in taking this step responds to the courage of the Christians who have decided to stay on in Iraq. This sentiment was expressed by Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi of Alqosh who stated, “Today we have given our agreement to the rebuilding of the houses in our ruined villages. This is a brave step forward which gives us great joy and encourages the Christians to remain in their villages and in their own country.”

 

Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan addressed an appeal to all international benefactors: “We are the roots of Christianity. We must remain in our country. We must remain as witnesses to Jesus Christ in this country, in Iraq and especially in the Nineveh Plains. This task of rebuilding all the houses in those villages where ISIS has destroyed everything is truly an enormous challenge. Thank you in advance to all those who will help us.”

 

By Daniele Piccini, Aid to the Church in Need International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin


 

Iraq, Nineveh Plains: 200 million for the reconstruction

30.03.2017 in ACN International, ACN PRESS, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Communication, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Middle East

(Photo) February 2017: Batnaya is a small town situated about 15 km from Mosul.
About 850 Christian families lived here in 2014.

Iraq, Nineveh Plains

More than 12,000 private homes on the Nineveh plains damaged by ISIS  

 

Königstein /Montreal, March 29, 2017 – The Islamic State (ISIS) damaged more than 12,000 private homes in twelve Christian villages on the Nineveh plains. These were the findings of a study initiated by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need. Among those damaged, 669 houses were completely destroyed. The charity estimates the costs for rebuilding will vastly exceed 200 million dollars.

February 2017: A Crucifix found in the rubble in the village of Qaraqosh.

 

 

As part of the study, 1,500 families who fled to Erbil from the affected regions were also asked whether they intended to return to the – now liberated – places they had come from. Of these, 1,308 of these responded with 41 percent of the respondents indicating that they wanted to return to their native villages, 46 per cent said that they were considering it.

 

This represents a considerable difference when compared with a survey also carried out by Aid to the Church in Need last November among 5,762 internally displaced persons. Only 3.28 per cent of the respondents wanted to return to their native villages at that time.  Then, the security situation in the liberated region was still fragile and combat operations were ongoing.

 

The study also showed that 57 per cent of respondents reported that their possessions had been plundered, 22 per cent responded that their houses had been destroyed. The rest could not provide any information on the current condition of their houses and belongings. Slightly over a quarter (25.46 per cent) reported that their papers had been stolen by the terrorists of the Islamic State.

 

Currently, there are still 14,000 registered families who fled from Mosul and the Nineveh plains living in Erbil. This is approximately equal to 90,000 people, down from originally 120,000 in 2014. Today, 12,000 families continue to depend on humanitarian aid from Aid to the Church in Need.

 

The study, carried out by Aid to the Church in Need with the help of local church employees, consisted of three parts and is ongoing: first, the damages done to private homes by ISIS was ascertained. The findings of the investigation on the damages to social institutions such as schools and clinics as well as to church buildings will follow.

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Aid to the Church in Need International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin


 

ACN Project of the Week – A new dormitory for the seminary in Conakry

30.03.2017 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, CONSTRUCTION, Guinea, Journey with ACN, SEMINARIANS

Guinea                                                                                   

A new dormitory for the seminary in Conakry

Guinea is an overwhelmingly Islamic country in which roughly 85% of the population of 11.6 million people are Muslim. Christians make up only around 8% in this country, while the remainder of the population adhere to the traditional African religions.

For decades, this country of West Africa was dominated by the regime of dictator Ahmed Sékou Touré, who ruled from 1958 until his death in 1984. After his death, the Senegalese newspaper Le Soleil spoke of the end of what it had once called the “longest and most murderous dictatorship on the continent.” Torture and executions were an everyday occurrence, and thousands of people disappeared without trace.

The Catholic Church, which opposed the regime, was forced into silence and Archbishop Raymond-Maria Tchidimbo of Conakry spent almost 9 years in prison where he suffered torture. His successor, the present Cardinal Robert Sarah, was on the dictator‘s death list, though in fact Sékou Touré died before he was able to carry out his plans.

During these years of dictatorship, the Catholic Church was barely able to develop. To this day, it still only has three dioceses. For many years, the seminarians training for the priesthood had to study in neighbouring Senegal and Mali.

The Catholic Church built its own seminary, the doors opened for the academic year 2012/2013 to new seminarians in Kendoumaya in the Archdiocese of Conakry. The seminary is named after Pope Benedict XVI and serves the seminarians from all three dioceses of the country.

In 2014, there were serious setbacks because of the Ebola epidemic resulting in the delay of opening the academic year. The seminary, although still in its infancy, managed to cope even with this challenge.

Until now, the seminarians have only been able to study philosophy here. For their theology studies, they have had to travel to Bamako in Mali. This is all about to change…

Completion of the construction of the chapel for the Grand Seminary Benedict XVI in Kendoumaya

Aid to the Church in Need has provided substantial support for the new seminary. We are contributing $58,000 for the construction of an additional dormitory wing for the theology students; we are also giving $43,500 for the training of the 69 seminarians to help them reach their goal of becoming priests, to be of service to the Church and the African population.

 

Would you like to give to a similar project?  Simply click below to donate!

 


 

ACN Interview – Haiti – The Church: an essential source of Hope

24.03.2017 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Haiti, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need

 

Haiti

The Church: an essential source of Hope


Marco Marco Mencaglia (head of ACN Latin America section)

Marco Mencaglia, head of the Haitian section of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need recently travelled to the country. His goal: to take stock of the aid the charity has granted over the last few years, and determine the future needs of the local Church.

According to the “Fragile States Index”1, among all the countries on the planet where no war has recently been waged, Haiti is most in danger of failing and ranks tenth in this index, before countries like Iraq and Pakistan.

 

ML:  What was your first impression when you arrived in Haiti?

 

MM: Haiti is a country of extreme poverty. According to the latest statistics of the IMF, it is the poorest country in the world outside of Africa. Similar to other Latin American cities, the capital of Port-au-Prince is growing in a completely uncontrolled manner, especially at its newly created peripheries, where there are no basic provisions. Most people live from hand to mouth along the main roads, where they engage in black market trade, in hygienic and inconceivable humanitarian conditions.

The traffic, air pollution and population density are constantly on the rise in the capital – and have already become massive problems. The Haitian state is very weak. Its public presence is quite limited, especially in rural areas outside of the capital. In the language of its native inhabitants, Haiti means “Land of the High Mountains.” In many places, and especially in the remote mountain villages, the Catholic Church is the only institution that consistently reaches out to help the inhabitants, despite all of the difficulties.

Haiti, January 2017
One of the many rural chapels in Haiti. Under a very poor tent the faithful live all their liturgical celebrations along the year.

 

Has the generosity of the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need made a noticeable impact?

I was able to see for myself just how important our support is in the training of seminarians. Currently, 315 candidates for the priesthood are living in the provisional housing set up at the national seminary of Port-au-Prince after the seminary was destroyed by the earthquake in 2010. Our help has become decisive for one of the few riches, for one of the few hopes of the country: the vocations to the priesthood. The bishops’ commitment to priest training as well as to an improved and careful selection of the candidates through a propaedeutic year offer good prospects for the future.

“I was impressed that the church or presbytery was the only building in a 10 to 20 km radius with a stable supply of energy.”

I would also like to point out how successful our help has been in enabling the use of solar energy in remote parishes. I was impressed that the church or presbytery was the only building in a 10 to 20 km radius with a stable supply of energy. We saw how hundreds of people came to the presbytery in the mornings to charge their mobile phones. In the evenings, the entire village gathered around the presbytery so as not to be plunged into total darkness. Light plays a decisive role in making it possible for these communities to have hope. The priests working in mountainous regions are isolated because these are areas that can only be reached via paths that are in a deplorable state, over which one sometimes has to travel by foot for an hour. Thanks to solar energy, the priests can maintain daily contact to the diocese and to the world. Furthermore, the technical support and the quality of the equipment they have received from Germany have fully met the needs of the local church. Although the technology is simple, it is currently not available everywhere in the country.

Haiti, January 2017
Devotion in the Sanctuary of Saut d´Eau, a place of pilgrimage with growing importance at National level

What was the most poignant moment of your trip?

I was moved by the lives of the diocesan priests in Haiti. Their lives are, without a doubt, very difficult and they hold a great deal of responsibility. I was impressed by the dedication of many young priests, 25 to 30 years old, who have assumed their first positions in a parish. The conditions they live in can often be called dramatic and are beyond their abilities and strength. Despite this, they try not to lose their enthusiasm. As brothers and sisters in faith, it is our responsibility to not leave these young priests to their own devices by doing everything we possibly can to support the bishop as the shepherd of the shepherds. Haiti has many troubles; misery can be seen everywhere. These young men represent hope. Their enthusiasm and their love for the church are a light within the darkness that we need to keep alive.

 

 

You probably listened to many testimonials during your trip. Which of these would you choose as a sign of hope?

The football game held at the national stadium after the earthquake: police officers played against priests. The game found unbelievable resonance in the country’s media. Many still remember it. Despite the many difficulties, the Haitians have not lost their enthusiasm – especially not for football, the national sport. The recently appointed bishop of Hinche, Desinord Jean, was one of the players on the priests’ team. He promoted the game on the diocesan radio station “Radio Soleil,” which he managed at the time. He remained visibly moved when he told us that after the police officers had scored six goals, the overflowing stadium celebrated the only goal made by the priests with ear-splitting excitement.

 

You learn a lot from the local churches on a trip like this. Which statement do you remember best?

“The foundation of a new parish is a moment of hope, means joy for the entire village.” Said to us by Father Barthelemy Feuille, a priest at Fond Rouge in the Jeremie diocese. The growing presence of the Catholic Church is palpable all over the country. Thanks to the great number of vocations to the priesthood, each diocese establishes one to two new parishes each year. One example: the Jacmel and Hinche dioceses, both of which were founded in 1988, have grown from 9 to 29 and 10 to 44 parishes, respectively, in 30 years. The foundation of a new parish is a moment of great hope, not only for Catholics, but also for the entire population. Because the arrival of a priest also means access to basic provisions in places forgotten by the government: a school whose activities take place in the church building during the week, a vehicle for emergencies and for transporting the sick to the hospital, and a connection to the world outside… For thousands of communities in Haiti, the priest and the Church represent the soul and hope.

 

Haiti, January 2017
Fr. Montherlant Mathieu, parish of Dumont, isolated on the mountains around the diocesan see of Les Cayes, southwest Haiti. The solar system for the church (which is also a primary school during the week) is the only source of energy in an area of kilometers.

“Without exaggeration, we can claim that without the Church, many of these villages do not have any hope for the future.”

Repair of the roof of the parish church Sainte Cathérine de Sienne d’Arnaud: The parish church destructed by Hurricane Matthew, O5.10.2016

 

What are the next steps that the international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need has planned for Haiti?

 

On 4 October 2016, the terrifying and powerful hurricane Matthew wreaked great havoc across the country – it was the worst in 50 years. The western part of the country was especially hard hit: the Jeremie, Cayes and partially also the Anse-à-Veau, Jacmel, Port-au-Prince and Port-de-Paix dioceses. In Jeremie and Cayes, 90% of the parish houses suffered damage to their roofs or masonry. More than 200 chapels located in mountain villages in the two dioceses were totally destroyed.  For the next few months, Aid to the Church in Need has made it a priority to work together with other organizations to provide emergency relief for rebuilding or for repair work. In most communities, the church is the only building in which not only pastoral events, but also social events can be held. Without exaggeration, we can claim that without the Church, many of these villages do not have any hope for the future.

 

 

  1. Fragile State Index 2016, Fund for Peace http://fsi.fundforpeace.org/

 

Interview held by Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada

 

ACN Interview – Czech Republic “A beacon of faith” disappears

23.03.2017 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Czech Republic

Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, archbishop of the diocese Praha, Czech Republic, on a 2003 visit to Aid to the Church in Need

Czech Republic

“A beacon of faith” disappears

Aid to the Church in Need mourns for Cardinal Miroslav Vlk

The international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need mourns for Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, who passed away last Saturday (18 March) at the age of 84. “Cardinal Vlk was a beacon of faith in a country tested by communism, a country in which today, the ties that link people to the faith are the weakest in all of Europe,” said Father Martin Barta, the charity’s International Ecclesiastical Assistant.  


According to Father Barta, the former archbishop of Prague had to work for years as a window cleaner due to the anticlerical reprisals of the communist government, only carrying out his work as a priest in secret.  He “decisively influenced many people by faithfully bearing priestly witness under the most difficult conditions” and becoming an “iconic figure of the faith in a society that had to rediscover the path to God” after the political turnaround. The cardinal was also “a longstanding friend of our charity,” Father Barta emphasized. He returned the aid given to him by Aid to the Church in Need to rebuild the church in his Archdiocese of Prague “in a different currency – that of prayer.”

 

At the archiepiscopal seminary in Praha Czech/Republic

 “God alone was our light”


Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, archbishop of the diocese Praha in Czech Republic, during his visit at Aid to the Church in Need, celebrating the Holy mass with Father Joaqin Alliende- *

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need in honour of his 75th birthday in 2007, the cardinal focused on his experiences during the time of the persecution. “The persecution helped us to be more faithful to God. Who else could have helped us otherwise? In the beginning when the communists had seized power, many people in Czechoslovakia still thought that the Americans would intervene. That was, however, just an illusion. God alone was our light. During the persecution, there was no literature, no funds. One could only choose and look for God. For me, this was a great mercy.”  The communists have gone. “But God has not disappeared. He is still here!” the cardinal emphasized.

However, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk was also deeply concerned about the deterioration of the fundamental values in society: a lack of respect for other people, for life, a disappearing sense of honour. “A society cannot be built on selfishness,” he emphasized “but instead it is a part of our human identity to be open to one another. Above all, the church must bear witness, for living witness evokes respect and can trigger a response in the human heart.”

“The friendly ties the cardinal maintained towards us, as well as his witness, are a precious legacy that we will carry in our hearts,” Father Barta said. “We hope and pray that even after his death, his example will continue to lead people to find the faith that was radically destroyed through communism and that is only now gently beginning to blossom again.”

If in 1950, 76 per cent of the population living in the territories of today’s Czech Republic (at the time part of Czechoslovakia) was still Catholic, today it is only 10.4 per cent. Another 11 per cent belong to other Christian denominations. With 34 per cent of people self-declared as having no affiliation with a religion as well as another 44 per cent who do not specify their religious affiliation, the Czech Republic is considered as the country most atheist country in all of Europe. In communist times, the former Czechoslovakia was one of the countries in which the Catholic Church suffered the greatest persecution.

By  Eva-Maria Kolmann, AED International
Adaptated by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church Canada

 

ACN Interview – Central African Republic

21.03.2017 in ACN Interview, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Central African Republic

Central African Republic

“It was almost like the visit from the Pope”

Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui, is currently travelling through in his country of the Central African Republic in the month of February.

While there, from 22 to 24 of February, he visited the parish of Bozoum and the town of Bocaranga, where only recently, there was serious violence. The Cardinal’s program also included talks with the rebels. Father Aurelio Gazzera, the parish priest of Bozoum, accompanied the Cardinal. Later, on 26 February, he spoke to Aid to the Church in Need about this visit.

 

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN Internaltional

 


ACN: What was your experience of the visit by Cardinal Nzapalainga to your parish in your diocese?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: The Cardinal‘s visit reminded me a little of the visit by the Pope to Bangui a year ago. The joy and the hopes of the people that it inspired were very great! The people gave the Cardinal an overwhelming welcome. Even along the 125 km stretch that we travelled with the Cardinal on his journey from Bozoum to Bocaranga, he had to stop in every village, since the people were already waiting for him along the roadside and wanted to hear a word from him and receive his blessing. It was profoundly moving to see how greatly the people genuinely wanted to listen to the Cardinal. And this listening, I truly believe and hope, was for many of them the beginning of a new journey, just as for many people the words of the Pope were when he visited our country in November 2015.

 

ACN: You also took part, together with the Cardinal, in two meetings with the rebels of the Antibalaka. What can you tell us about them?

Father Aurrelio Gazzera: The rebels were armed, some of them with ordinary home-made guns they had fashioned out of water pipes, and others with Kalashnikovs. During the war, the Antibalaka were the opponents of the Seleka rebels. Since then they have become a mixed group of men who initially took up arms to protect their families and their villages, but to which a number of youths have now attached themselves who seek to profit from the situation and live by robbery and extortion. To them the Cardinal addressed a calm but emphatic invitation to change their lives and not allow themselves to be fooled by material things and money, and above all not to allow themselves to be led astray by those who were urging them on to violence, only to later abandon them.

 

ACN: You yourself are very experienced in negotiating with armed groups, and in fact you have already on several occasions succeeded in persuading rebel groups to withdraw, thereby preventing a bloodbath and protecting the civilian population. You were also able to speak to the rebels on this occasion. What did you say to them?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: I invited them to reflect on the fact that those who sow violence will themselves harvest nothing else but death. And I said that the time had now come to start thinking of rebuilding. I also urged them to think about the fact that in reality they were merely serving the interests of unscrupulous people of whom they themselves would be the first victims! And often they do not think of the consequences of their actions, when they cause destruction, exploit other people and burn down houses.

 

ACN: Do you believe that these meetings with the rebels will have achieved anything?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: Generally speaking, it seemed to me that the men were listening quite attentively, and at least some of them appeared to feel the longing to seek new ways of peace and change their lives. It will take time, but when someone is willing to talk about things, it is always a big step forward and one that can lead to a change.

 

ACN: The city of Bocaranga was only recently the scene of violent attacks. The journey there cannot have been without danger…

Father Aurelio Gazzera: Yes, on February 2, nomads of the Fulbe tribe killed 21 people there and wounded several dozen others. They burnt down the marketplace and many of the shops, looted the offices of several aid agencies and generally spread fear and terror around them. The UN troops did nothing to stop them, though they had been informed of the situation.

So the Cardinal‘s visit was the first happy and joyful occasion following these terrible events. Nonetheless, going there was an act that called for great courage on the part of the Cardinal. The forces of order were completely absent, and on the way there I myself drove ahead of the Cardinal‘s vehicle so that I could get there first and identify and resolve any potential security problems. Thanks be to God, everything went well, even though the armed rebels of the Antibalaka were roaming around, and we also had to pass through a rebel roadblock, 5 km before the city. However, for their part this was more a demonstration of their own power than the intention to really do anything bad.

 

ACN: What was the most important message of the Cardinal?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: I would say that his most important messages were these: first, “Have trust in God; do not fear!” This was also in fact the message of that day‘s Gospel reading. And then, “Take a more farsighted view and do not limit yourselves to looking for satisfaction in material things but have a long-term vision! That will make it possible to have a new country, a new life for everyone!”

 

ACN: In a country suffering from armed conflicts, extreme poverty and the total failure of the state, the Church has an important role to play. Did the Cardinal also speak about the role of the Church, and in particular that of the priests and religious?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: There was a very intense and moving moment in Bocaranga when we had gathered together along with the Cardinal in the Sisters‘ chapel with around 20 religious from various different mission stations. Among them were very young novices, Sisters who had just taken their permanent vows, right through to elderly missionaries who had been working in the Central African Republic for 40 years and more. All of them remained at their posts, especially during these four years of war – despite the threats, the attacks and lootings, the attempts at intimidation. The Cardinal emphatically expressed the gratitude of the Church and of the people for this continuing perseverance, despite the war. And he told us about something that happened in a parish in Bangui at the height of the war. One man said to him, “I stayed put, because I could see the light burning in the Sisters‘ convent. And I knew that if they were staying, then I could stay as well!”

It is true that the Church is doing a great deal. She is building schools, hospitals, churches, chapels… Then there is the work she does in bearing witness and raising her voice. But, the most beautiful thing of all is simply being at the side of the people. Having the doors of our parishes and mission stations open to everyone who was, or is, in need. This too is evangelization. It means making the presence and the love of God the Father concretely visible!

 

ACN: This last year, with help from ACN, you have been able to renovate and enlarge your parish church in Bozoum, in which you welcomed the Cardinal. How important is this church to you and to the faithful?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: For us it was a great joy to be able to welcome the Cardinal in our “new” church. The fact that we were able to make this dream reality was thanks in large measure to the generosity of ACN‘s benefactors. But I also took pains to emphasize that every one of the faithful in our parish should himself contribute a little piece of his heart and his faith towards the building, and a great many of them helped bring sand, stone, gravel and food by way of a contribution. The building of a church is a very important moment for a Christian community, but not only for them. Even many people who weren‘t even Christians wanted to make a little contribution or at least show a gesture of sympathy, and this was something very special and very moving for us.
We wanted our church to look beautiful – very beautiful – for beauty speaks of dignity. And at this moment in the Central African Republic it is extremely necessary to rediscover the dignity of every individual human being. The beauty of the Church must reflect the beauty of God and with it our own beauty as Catholic faithful. It reflects our being Christian! We are very grateful to everyone who has helped us to make this miracle a reality!

 


  1. Anti-balaka: Animist and Christian rebels, means machete proof in Sango; favours the Christians who are more of a sedentary group.
  1. Seleka: A name meaning ‘coalition’ in Sango one of CAR’s two national languages (including French). A rebel group favouring mainly Muslims who are nomadic and herders.
However, the situation is far more complex and clouded than described here.

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin 


 

ACN Project of the Week – Training 22 seminarians in South Sudan

15.03.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Journey with ACN, Religious formation, Religious men, SEMINARIANS, South Sudan, Sudan

South Sudan                                                                

Training for 21 seminarians in the diocese of Tombura-Yambio

South Sudan is the youngest country in the world today.

In 2011, when the predominantly Christian and animist South of the country finally declared its independence from the overwhelmingly Muslim North after a quarter of a century of bloody civil war, the change was initially followed with great rejoicing. But, the joy did not last. In 2013 South Sudan slipped back into a new civil war.

Once again – as in so many other countries around the world – the Church is the only institution in which the suffering people can place their trust.

Pictures of seminarians at the minor seminary St. John Paul II in Tombura Yambio

With an area of over 81,000 km² the diocese of Tombura-Yambio is almost the size of Austria! The shortage of priests here is acute; many parishes do not have any priest at all. But even where there is a priest, he has to minister to an area so vast and with so many remote and widely scattered villages that the faithful in the local communities only rarely receive the Sacraments. As a result, many Catholics die without the last rites of the Church, many children remain unbaptized and the ordinary faithful are left longing to attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion.

Once again – as in so many other countries around the world – the Church is the only institution in which the suffering people can place their trust.

Therefore, the most pressing concern of the diocese is to provide its future priests with a good and solid formation. For every new vocation is a sign of hope for the future. So it is a source of great joy that there are 21 young men preparing for ordination right now,  in the diocesan seminary – the downside, however, is that the Bishop has no resources to fund their training. So often the parents of the seminarians have nothing. They have lost everything due to war, being uprooted and expelled from their homes and have even watched their houses burn to the ground and lost their few possessions to looting.

A seminarian at St. John Paul II in Tombura Yambio

“We are turning to our fellow Christians, hoping you can help us to train up our seminarians, so that they can become priests and serve the suffering people in our country, and at the same time become promoters of peace,” writes the rector of the seminary to us. And his bishop supports his request with these memorable words: “I do not want to see the future of the Church crumble in my hands.” He is also asking for our help.  We have promised him 28,275 dollars

 If you would like to support this or a similar project – simply click here to donate!  Thank you!

 


 

 

Press Release : ACN’s urgent request for children in Aleppo

13.03.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Maria Lozano, Communiqué, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Press Release, Syria

A Drop of Milk program

An urgent request to support the children of Aleppo

 

Aid to the Church in Need continues the work done since the start of the war in Syria: to support the Christian families of Aleppo, along with local partners, such as Canadian-Syrian gastroenterologist Nabil Antaki. Our immediate concern is to continue the distribution of milk to the children.

Drop of milk: special milk for the infants

 

The aim of the project—named A Drop of Milk—is to provide to Christian children of Aleppo under the age of ten a certain amount of milk every month. In these times of scarcity, this “white gold” is essential for the proper growth and well-being of children. The Drop of Milk program has been ongoing since May 2015.

The project is most appreciated by all the Christian Churches in Aleppo since it is the ONLY program, which helps all Christians regardless of their particular denomination.  It is an ecumenical program. However, the financing of this life-giving project is waning.  Dr. Nabil Antaki, the Syrian doctor who is coordinating the project has approached ACN for support to be able to keep running the milk program, which is essential for the Christian children in Aleppo.

“We distribute milk every month to about 2,850 children: 2,600 receive powdered milk and 250 receive special milk for infants. Babies, not breastfed by their mother, also receive a special infant’s milk. The total number of beneficiaries varies every month depending on the number of births and emigration of the families,” explains Dr. Nabil Antaki.

 The situation is dire…

The relative calm since the retaking of Eastern Aleppo has seen families returning to their homes.   But with the vast amount of destruction and lack of usable structures, their needs are huge.   Basics like food baskets, fuel for heating their houses and electricity are the essentials needed to begin again. Since the start of the conflict, the pontifical charity ACN (Aid to the Church in Need) has been channeling urgent help to those Christian families in Syria.

ACN will help for a year with the program Drop of milk, a total more 326 000 dollars.

Despite the end of the conflict in that region, these staggering numbers tell a story of ongoing despair:  80% of the population of Aleppo is displaced; 70% live below the poverty line.  Food parcels are desperately needed to fend-off the starvation that comes with such devastation.

Georgina, a mother of three children, explains to ACN how important the Drop of Milk project is for her and her family: “Myriam is ten years old; Pamela is six. We are one of the beneficiaries of ‘A Drop of Milk’ project. Both Myriam and Pamela get one kilogram of milk powder every month. Pamela’s health is critical after being hit by bomb which left shrapnel in her back.   Now that she is recovering, she needs milk to become healthier and stronger. This project is very important for me and my family and I’d really like it to continue.”

The children of Aleppo, already deprived of a normal and peaceful childhood, should not be deprived of milk needed for their growth and health. ACN has therefore assured Dr. Antaki of our help for the children of Aleppo.

Aid to the Church in Need will give $27,188 each month during this year whole year – 2017 – for a total of $326,256.

 

Will you partner with us and show the children of Aleppo that there is hope? There are many ways to give to the children of Aleppo:

 

By phone: 514-932-0552 or toll free at 1-800-585-6333, ext. 227
Via our web site: http://secure.acn-aed-ca.org or https://www.facebook.com/AidChurch/

 

By mail:

Aid to the Church in Need
A Drop of Milk program
P.O. Box 670, Station H
Montreal, QC    H3G 2M6

 

In the name of Aleppo’s children: We thank you!

 

 

Text: Maria Lozano, ACN international Adapted by  Aid to the Church in Need Canada

 

 


 

ACN Press Release – Pope Francis prays for all persecuted Christians

02.03.2017 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Persecution of Christians, Pope, Pope Francis, Religious freedom

March Prayer Intentions

Pope Francis prays for all persecuted Christians

The March edition of The Pope Video*, produced by The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and supported by ACN (Aid to the Church in Need), concerns the situation of Christians persecuted and discriminated because of their faith around the world without distinction of rites or confession.

As Pope Francis has consistently reminded us at different times: “How many people are being persecuted because of their faith, forced to abandon their homes, their places of worship, their lands, their loved ones!” Solidarity with our brothers and sisters suffering discrimination, violence or persecutions for their faith, must be demonstrated.

Read the abridged Religious Freedom report here: http://bit.ly/WorldReligiousFreedom

According to the last report produced last November by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need addressing the situation of Religious Freedom in the World, Christians are the most highly persecuted religious group on earth. This fundamental human right – Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – is under serious threat in 38 countries and in 23 of these, the threat classifies as persecution.

In his prayer intention, the Holy Father calls for prayers for them: “I ask you: how many of you pray for persecuted Christians? Do it with me, that they may be supported by the prayers and material help of all the Churches and communities.”

“We thank the Holy Father for his constant concern for persecuted Christians. Aid to the Church in Need has been helping the suffering church since the beginning of its history. Unfortunately, the situation in the world has not improved over the years, the scenarios change but the suffering continues: once it was communism, today it is mainly Islamic fundamentalism. This call is more current than ever,” says Johannes Heereman, Aid to the Church in Need’s Executive President.

THE POPE’S PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR March 2017: “That persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.”

 

About Aid to the Church in Need

Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical charity directly under the direction by the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action. Founded in 1947 by Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.

Undertaking thousands of projects each year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelization projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.

 

* About the Pope Video

The Pope Video is a global initiative developed by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) to disseminate the monthly intentions of the Holy Father concerning the challenges facing humanity. The videos, created by La Machi Communication for Good Causes, seek to unite people in praying with Pope Francis for those challenges. The Project has the support of the Vatican Television Center (CTV).

 

About the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer)

For over a century, the Apostleship of Prayer has been disseminating to the world the prayer intentions entrusted to them by the pope of the times. Now, in its process of recreation, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network emphasizes its role of communicating these prayer intentions and leveraging new media and tools. Its mission is to unite people in prayer and service in response to the challenges facing humanity expressed by the Holy Father in his monthly intentions.

Those who participate in this network are encouraged to become apostles in daily life through a spiritual path called the “Way of the Heart,” transforming those who take that path in the service of the mission of Jesus Christ. The Apostleship of Prayer, founded in 1844, is now present in 98 countries uniting together more than 35 million people including its youth branch, the Eucharistic Youth Movement. For more information: http://www.popesprayer.net/.

 


 

 

Press Release – Episcopacy denounces violence against civilians in South-Sudan

28.02.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Press Release, South Sudan

South Sudan

Episcopacy denounces violence against civilians

 

United together from February 21 to 23, the Catholics bishops of South Sudan resolutely denounced the violence perpetrated against civilians, as “war crimes” inflicted by both the opposition and the government who are accused of killing, raping, burning, beating, looting, harassing and detaining civilians, even keeping entire villages from harvesting their crops resulting in some regions facing famine.  Aid to the Church in Need has obtained a copy of this declaration; here are some of the highlights.

 

“We, the Catholic Bishops of South Sudan, have frequently written pastoral messages urging change in our nation, but it seems they have had little effect,” they write in their address with a title taken from the prophet Isaiah, also quoted by the evangelists Matthew and Mark, “A Voice Cries in the Wilderness.”

 

“Our country is not at peace. People live in fear. The civil war, which we have frequently described as having no moral justification whatsoever, continues. Despite our calls to all parties, factions and individuals to STOP THE WAR*, nevertheless killing, raping, looting, displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue all over the country,” they write.

Displaced children in Riimenze, South Sudan

 

The bishops also remind us that the people cannot go to do their harvest because they fear the armed forces, whether they are from the government or the opposition. “Some towns have become “ghost towns,” they write.  “While the authorities may claim that they are free to return to their homes, in practice they fear to do so. In places, the destruction has been described to us as “scorched earth,” they tell us. “All of this is a form of ‘collective punishment,’ which is outlawed as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.”

 

 

Undermining faith in the Church

 

The South Sudan Episcopacy give us an example of these crimes with the story of “Sister Veronica, a doctor who was gunned down by soldiers while driving a clearly-marked ambulance on 16th May 2016. Her killers were arrested, but we have heard no more and we await justice.”

 

Otherwise, the bishops remained “concerned” that “some elements within the government appear to be suspicious of the Church. In some areas, the Church has been able to mediate local peace deals,” but according to the bishops, “easily undermined if government officials are removed and replaced with hardliners who do not welcome Church efforts for peace. Priests, sisters and other personnel have been harassed. Some of the programmes on our radio network have been removed. Churches have been burned down,” say the bishops.

 

On Valentine’s Day, security officers tempted to close their Catholic bookstores.  “They harassed our personnel and confiscated several books.” The ecumenical church leaders’ delegation which visited Pope Francis in Rome and Archbishop Justin Welby in London has been trying,” in vain, they say “to obtain a meeting with President Salva Kiir since December 2016.”

 

The bishops recall that they are not against anyone, “but AGAINST* evil – violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression – regardless of where they are and who is practising them. We are ready,” they write, “to dialogue with and between the government and the opposition at any time.”

 

They conclude by addressing particularly the faithful while affirming: “We will continue to be “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness”. We wish to give you hope that you are not abandoned and that we are working to resolve the situation at many different levels.

 

Finally, with great joy, we wish to inform you that the Holy Father Pope Francis hopes to visit South Sudan later this year. The Holy Father is deeply concerned about the sufferings of the people of South Sudan.”

 

* Capitalized in the original letter. 

Displaced People in Riimenze, South Sudan