ACN International


Journey with ACN – Catholic and Orthodox Churches meet

16.05.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Orthodox Church, Peace

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :  Background report and highlights post Vatican II


IMG_5189Developments between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches following the Second Vatican Council


By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

During the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church defined the Orthodox Churches as “Sister Churches.” There had already been a number of positive steps leading up to this statement:  For example, in 1958 Patriarch Athenagoras offered his condolences to the Western Church on the death of Pope Pius XII and congratulated John XXIII on his election. Representatives of the Orthodox Churches attended the Second Vatican Council, including also a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Since the Council the relations between the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy have developed and deepened at a breathless pace. One of the high-spots was the meeting between Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in January 1964 in Jerusalem. An outcome of the meeting between the Pope and the highest-ranking representative of Orthodoxy was the solemn lifting of the mutual anathema between the Eastern and Western Churches. This ban, which had been imposed in 1054, was lifted on the penultimate day of the Council, 7 December 1965, simultaneously in the Vatican and in the Phanar, the official seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and as stated in the declaration it was to be “left to oblivion”. On 25 July 1967 Pope Paul VI visited Patriarch Athenagoras in the Phanar in Istanbul and received the Patriarch ceremoniously in October of the same year in Rome.


Preparing for a theological dialogue

The tenth anniversary of the lifting of the anathema was celebrated in a solemn service simultaneously by Paul VI in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and by Patriarch Dimitrios, the successor to Patriarch Athenagoras who died in 1972, in St. George’s Church in the Phanar. The ceremony in Rome was attended by Metropolitan Meliton representing Constantinople. A symbolic and surprising high-point was the Pope’s spontaneous genuflection before the Metropolitan, whose feet he kissed when the latter announced the setting up of a pan-orthodox commission to prepare the theological dialogue between Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church also announced that it would set up a commission for this dialogue. Pope Paul VI said in his address that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were “joined by such a deep community that it would not take much to achieve the fullness which will permit a joint celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord.”

Pope John Paul II coined the phrase: “We need two lungs: the western and the eastern to enable Christendom to breathe.” He stressed in particular the “ecumenism of the Martyrs,” which means the common witness of Christ. In his apostolic letter of the jubilee year 2000, which appeared under the title “Tertio millennio adveniente,” Pope John Paul II elaborated on this idea: “Perhaps the most convincing form of ecumenism is the ecumenism of the saints and of the martyrs. The communio sanctorum speaks louder than the things which divide us.” This theme had already been present in his ecumenical encyclical which appeared in 1995 under the title “Ut unum sint.

The kiss of peace

On November 30, 1979, the Feast of Andrew the Apostle, Pope John Paul II visited Patriarch Dimitrios, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, in his official seat in Istanbul. On the same day exactly 27 years later Benedict XVI also visited Patriarch Bartholomew while on a three-day journey to Turkey. The Pope was also present at the Divine Liturgy which was celebrated on the occasion of the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle on this day in the Patriarchal Church of St. George in the Phanar. In their joint declaration, the two church leaders thanked God for this “fraternal meeting” and stated: “The Holy Spirit will help us to prepare the great day of the re-establishment of full unity, whenever and however God wills it. Then we shall truly be able to rejoice and be glad.” Photos showing Pope Benedict XVI and the Ecumenical Patriarch standing on the loggia holding hands went around the world.


Patriarch Bartholomew also attended the enthronement of Pope Francis on March 19, 2013. It was the first time since the 1054 split in the Church that an Orthodox Patriarch had attended the inauguration of a Roman Pope. Numerous other representatives of the different Orthodox Churches were also present. After the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis exchanged a kiss of peace with Patriarch Bartholomew and the Armenian Catholicos Karekin II.

The next day the Pope met representatives of other religious communities. On this occasion he was acting as the successor of the Apostle Paul when he consciously addressed the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as “my brother Andrew”. The Patriarch, as “first among equals”, occupies the honorary chairmanship of the heads of the Orthodox Churches. (Peter is the Apostle of the Western Church, while Andrew is the Apostle of the Eastern Churches. For example, icons showing the two brother apostles Peter and Andres embracing are a symbol of the inner bond between eastern and western Christianity.).



Boko Haram: “They wanted to hurt the heart of Nigeria”

13.05.2014 in ACN International, ACN Interview, ACN Malta, Boko Haram, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians

Maria Lozano, ACN International

On the night of 14–15 April 2014, approximately 275 girls were kidnapped from a Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. Boko Haram admitted responsibility for the kidnappings.

Aid to the Church in Need spoke to Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, during the charit´s international Religious Freedom Conference in Malta, May 13, 2014.

This interview was conducted by Maria Lozano of ACN’s International Communications Department.


Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria

ML: Archbishop Kaigama, this is not the first time that Boko Haram has perpetrated violence against innocent victims in in Nigeria but this time the blow has shocked the world.

Archbishop Kaigama: They wanted to hurt the heart of Nigeria. I am very worried. These girls have never been outside of their village, and now they are in the bush. I just pray that the religious values that Boko Haram promotes are sufficient to influence them to respect the dignity of these girls. They are just innocent girls and every human being feels bad about this. Life is sacred.


ML: Surely, it is tragic that something so horrific has to occur to attract the attention of the world.

Archbishop Kaigama: Yes, Boko Haram has already perpetrated a lot of attacks and killed thousands of people since 2009. In my own diocese of Jos, we have suffered several attacks, e.g. St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church in which 14 people died. In February, the group killed more than 100 Christian men in the villages of Doron Baga and Izghe, but the international community did not respond. This time was different, I think, because they are innocent young girls and also because it touches directly the suffering of women, the mothers of these children. And women can identify themselves more with the pain of others. The women started holding demonstrations – both Christian and Muslim women.


ML: Although Boko Haram is persecuting Christians and trying to Islamize the whole country, isn´t it true that more and more of the persecution and violence are affecting the Muslim community too?

Archbishop Kaigama: Yes.  At the beginning, it was more the idea to destroy Christianity, so-called “Western values” and implant a Sharia State in the North of Nigeria. So they targeted Christians as well as police stations and other institutions representing western values. But now one cannot say that they are only attacking Christians. Boko Haram has killed Muslim clergy as well. It is no longer about north or south, nor about Muslims or Christians. It is about human beings.  Nigerians are standing up together for freedom and dignity; a common voice is growing up, a voice that says: “violence is never the way.”


ML: How many of the girls are Christian and to what extent were they targeted because so many of them are Christian?

Archbishop Kaigama: Most of the girls are Christian. The majority of the girls who escaped were Christian, so we can presume that this applies to those still being held. But it is also true that there are some Muslims who were also kidnapped. So this incident is further evidence to show that Boko Haram is also targeting Muslims to some extent.


ML: There have been criticisms about the government’s reaction to the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram, especially in the wake of the kidnapping of the school girls. Are these criticisms justified?

Archbishop Kaigama: The government underestimated the Boko Haram crisis and was therefore slow in reacting. Part of the problem is that resources were not used in the right way to provide adequate care of the security agents and the proper equipment they need to combat the violence, perhaps because of some corrupt practices. Some security sources are claiming that Boko Haram’s weapons are more sophisticated and more developed than those of the military and police. The resources have to reach the right people. Also, soldiers have been killed trying to defend people and their families have not received enough help.  It is important that these families receive assistance.


ML: What is the Catholic Church doing in response to the kidnappings?

Archbishop Kaigama: We tried dialogue and it didn’t work; the government used force and it didn’t work. At this stage, what we need to do is to pray: only God can move the heart of these people. We pray and we request your prayers. As President of the Bishops’ Conference, I wrote to all the Catholics in Nigeria to have an hour of adoration, asking all the bishops, priests and faithful to offer prayer.


ML: What are you praying for?

Archbishop Kaigama: I am praying for three things: The first is that they release the girls soon and without harm. Secondly that Boko Haram stops these attacks and abandons violence. And then that the government benefits from the help of other countries around the world: that countries come together and fight terrorism, hunger, poverty to create an authentic unity, not just to serve political – hypocritical – interests.


ML: This problem has been going on now for five years. Are you hopeful that the international community can solve this problem now?

Archbishop Kaigama: We have to stand together, this is the only solution. Boko Haram has weapons but how are these weapons getting to the terrorists? Where is the money coming from? Who is training them? I believe the international community can deal with this. I am a priest, it is not my task, but I feel that the international governments working together can do it. Nigeria plays an important role in Africa and the world. It is better to help now rather than wait until it is too late and even more complicated.

Nigeria, diocese of Jos in March 2012  Women from the crater of a bomb at the headquarters of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in Jos, Plateau State (Boko Haram)  Project trip of Roberto Simona and Corinne Zaugg

Nigeria, diocese of Jos in March 2012
Women surround a crater caused by a Boko Haram bomb at the headquarters of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in Jos.








Journey with ACN – Jordan

09.05.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Refugees, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week again:  Jordan

“ … True power is service. “   Pope Francis – @pontifex


“My faith does not permit me to discriminate on the basis of religion” 

Pope Francis intends to meet refugees in Jordan – many of them receive support from “Aid to the Church in Need”

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

In only a few weeks now, Pope Francis will set out on his trip to the Middle East. Father Khalil Jaar is already excited. “I was asked whether I could organize two buses of refugees for a meeting with the Holy Father,” the Priest of the Latin Patriarchate said proudly. “I didn’t have to think about it for long. From our parish about 40 people will be there to meet him. In all, it is intended that 200 refugees and 200 sick and disabled people meet the Pope on  May 24 at the place on the River Jordan where Our Lord was baptized.”


Working for the dignity of refugees

Father Jaar’s parish of “St. Mary Mother of the Church” is located in Amman, the capital of Jordan. His main concern is to care for the refugees who seek shelter from the situation in Syria and Iraq in the neighbouring country of Jordan. “In the Middle East we have a refugee crisis of epic proportions. Millions are on the run,” he says.

For years Father Jaar has been helping to ensure that the refugees lead a dignified existence. “We started our work after the situation in Iraq got out of control following the 2003 American invasion. Now, of course, we are feeling the full impact of the Syrian crisis.”

Since the beginning of this year alone, 400 new Christian families have knocked on Father Jaar’s door – Syrians, of course, but also increasingly Iraqis. On the one hand, there are those Iraqi families who fled to Syria years ago and have yet again lost everything. But there are also those families coming directly from Iraq. “For years it seemed as though northern Iraq with the Kurdish autonomous region was secure. But the terror has also now reached there. Many Christians who have fled Baghdad and the south towards the north are now forced to pack their bags again.”

Father Jaar knows from his own experience how dangerous Iraq is. “I myself was once abducted in Baghdad. It was shortly after the American invasion of 2003. I have to thank God that I was freed.”



Refugee camps tranformed into bogs

Regularly the refugee families collect in the parish centre to receive relief supplies: basic foodstuffs such as rice, powdered milk, tea and sugar are handed out, as are clothing and toys for the children. “Without the generosity of the donors from “Aid to the Church in Need” we would not have been able to give this support,” Father Jaar says gratefully.

The winters are a particular challenge; in the Middle East they can also be long and cold. Blankets, warm clothing and gas heaters are then handed out to the families. In the refugee camps it’s especially bad. Snow and the water arising when it thaws both make life in the tents intolerable. Whole refugee camps then stand under water. Father Jaar has therefore launched his own winter relief project. “It’s not least thanks to ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ that I can act quickly as the need arises. I was able to buy and set up proper winter-proof portable huts instead of the tents.”



This help was given to Syrian Muslims. Christians don’t stay in the large camps like Zaatari in northern Jordan near the Syrian border. “It would be too dangerous for them. As soon as Christian families from Syria arrive in the camps, the camp administration calls me and I bring them to my parish.” He does not discriminate on the basis of religion. “Of course I help Muslim families. They are also God’s children. I therefore can’t differentiate between the Muslim and the Christian needy. My faith does not permit me to do that.”

In view of the great need Father Jaar insists that the refugees take advantage of any help they can get. “I make it a condition of our assistance that the families register with the United Nations Refugee Agency. Many are afraid to register there. They fear that this could have adverse consequences when they return to Syria. But I encourage them to do it. After all, by doing this they are granted refugee status and can claim the benefits offered by the UN relief agencies, such as free health care.”

Jordan has taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis. But they can expect no benefits. The refugees are officially only “guests” in Jordan. The Kingdom never signed the convention on refugees which would grant the refugees certain rights, such as health care, schooling for the children and so on. “Aid to the Church in Need” had therefore already helped Father Jaar in 2011 to pay the school fees for Iraqi children in Catholic schools.

Sometimes, Father Jaar says, he has the impression that his work is a drop in the ocean. “But you have to start somewhere. Anyway, this work makes me the happiest pastor in the world.” He is looking forward in particular to meeting the Holy Father Francis. “It is important that the refugees experience the Pope’s solidarity. This will give them hope and the feeling that they have not been forgotten.”








Russia: “I am God’s witness, not a public prosecutor.”

09.05.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Pastoral care, Russia

The Orthodox priest Igor Pokrovskij has been involved in prisoners’ pastoral care for 16 years. In this time he has baptized almost 400 prisoners. 

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

Seven-hundred thousand prisoners are being held in the 755 prisons and labour camps throughout the vast territory of the Russian Federation.  When FatherWerenfried van Straaten, the founder of “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN), travelled to Siberia in 1994 at the age of 81, he visited such a prison. He promised the prisoners from the bottom of his heart that he would pray for them every day, and he gave them the flowers he himself had received. He wanted to show them that they were not alone and that there was also love and joy for them.

Father Werenfried believed for the whole of his life that people “are better than we think.”  It was a special joy for him to see how God’s kingdom spread to the prisons by way of a religious book or radio program and souls who appeared to be lost were saved and enlightened.

ACN supports prison pastoral work in Russia by helping to build chapels and by supplying religious literature. Peter Humeniuk, the Head of the charity’s Russian Section, explained: “The Orthodox Church is one of the few institutions in Russia performing good work for the prisoners. Not only the chapels, but the religious books are received with much gratitude as well, and provide great comfort in this harsh environment. It is wonderful that people find their way to God by this means.”


The most important challenge in prison pastoral work

One of the priests doing prison pastoral work is Father Igor Pokrovskij. He reported on the beginnings of this apostolate in Nizhny Novgorod: “When we started our pastoral work in the prison in 1998, we only had a small room in the washhouse to pray in. We bought some paint and coated the walls. Prisoners who were artistically talented then painted icons on the walls. In a separate chamber I heard confession. I soon noticed many changes in the souls. Six months later a group of them already met separately for morning and evening prayers. When I came on Sunday to celebrate the Holy Liturgy they had prepared themselves for confession and Holy Communion during the week by fasting and praying.” Prisoners are also responsible for sexton duties and good order in the chapel. This is a task that demands a high degree of dependability.




The most important challenge in prison pastoral work is in his experience to get the prisoners to confess their guilt in order to change their lives effectively. Many are afraid to admit their crime even to the priest. “Then I say to them: I am God’s witness, not a public prosecutor. I have the authority to absolve you of your sins in His name. But to enable me to do this you must confess your guilt before God. This is essential if your soul is to be healed from sin.”



The prison where Father Igor works now has a proper chapel. Over the course of time the priest has baptized almost 400 prisoners, though he doesn’t know the exact number. Many of the former prison inmates Father Igor cared for over the years have now been released. He is still in contact with many of them. He has married them and baptized their children, and many come to church Sunday after Sunday. “We had someone here from a local authority who was serving time for corruption. He had previously been hostile to the Church. If someone wanted to build a place of worship in his district, he would refuse permission. Since his release he has been seen regularly at divine service.”


Finding their way back to the right path

Some people who have successfully built up a new career also support the Church financially and have become genuine benefactors. Others show their affection in the form of small gestures: “We had someone in the prison – his name was Aleksandr – who was serving time for manslaughter. He was also a talented artist. Aleksandr was converted in prison and was released early for good conduct. He married, moved to a village, now has three children and every year at Christmas he brings me two geese.”

There are also prisoners however, who only come to the chapel to obtain a certificate of good conduct or other advantages. But they can’t pull the wool over this experienced priest’s eyes: “I recognize such people straight away. You can see that they are deceitful.” Father Igor even had a case where an inmate threatened to kill him. But basically his experience has been positive: “In fact many people who have offended are well disposed towards the Church. In my experience, in their sin they think a lot about the meaning of life. People whose lives run smoothly often think they don’t need God.” Although it may appear surprising at first glance, it’s what Jesus said in the Gospel: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”



Father Igor regrets that some people who in fact have a many talents and gifts which they could employ for the good of society go off the rails and make wrongful use of their intelligence and abilities. He attributes this to the spiritual vacuum which reigns in many people. The time in prison with pastoral care is an opportunity for many to find their way back to the right path.





PRESS RELEASE : Syria – “The suffering of the people will become even greater”

07.05.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to refugees, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Lebanon, Syria

Aid to the Church in Need grants a further 622 000 dollars in emergency relief to war victims and refugees


AED International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Montreal, Wednesday May 7th, 2014 – The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has granted a further 425 000 dollarsemergency relief for war victims in Syria. This will help in particular refugees and distressed Christian families in Homs, Aleppo and the “Valley of Christians”.  In addition it has been resolved to donate a further 197 000 dollars for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The Head of the Middle East Section at ACN, Father Andrzej Halemba, fears that the situation in Syria will continue to deteriorate and that the war atrocities will increase. “The suffering of the people in Syria, and especially of the Christians, will become even greater,” he said, adding that a lot more aid would be necessary.


About 140,000 people have lost their lives in the war. There are now more than 9 million Syrians on the run, of which 2 million are fleeing abroad and 7 million are still in the country. Several million dwellings have been destroyed in the war, as have thousands of businesses and companies, and also fields which provided many people with the means of subsistence.

Since the start of the war in March 2011 ACN has granted aid of around 5,3 millions dollarsin Syria and for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. Since January 2014 a total of 961 000 dollars in emergency relief has been granted for war victims and refugees from Syria.


Journey with ACN – Israel

02.05.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Holy Land, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Israel, Journey with ACN, Pastoral aid

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week again:   Israel



“Church in the heart of Jewish society”

Pastoral centre for migrants opened in Tel Aviv – Patriarch Twal: “Thanks to ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ for its help”

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

With a ceremonial pontifical mass the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, inaugurated the first Catholic pastoral centre of migrants in Israel on Saturday in Tel Aviv.  Those present included the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, and the Ambassador of the Philippines in Israel.  Twal expressly thanked the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) for supporting the project. The patriarch’s own words were: “I wish the benefactors of ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ could be here to share the people’s joy at the new centre. I thank all donors from my heart on their behalf. May God bless them.”

Father David Neuhaus SJ, co-ordinator of the Patriarchate for migrants’ pastoral care and initiator of the project, thanked “Aid to the Church in Need” for its support. “It would have been impossible to found the ‘Our Lady of Valor’ Pastoral Centre without the generous help of various charities, including as always ‘Aid to the Church in Need’.’ Aid to the Church in Need’ has accompanied the development of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Church in Israel very closely and is now also helping the migrants. We are particularly grateful to ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ and pray for all benefactors.”



Father Neuhaus stressed that the Church of the Holy Land, which had to date been dominated mainly by the Arabic-speaking Palestinian Christians, was becoming much more diverse in its composition. “The migrants are making the Christian presence more complex since many of them come from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and live within the Israeli-Jewish, Hebrew-speaking society. Although they remain on the margins of this society, they identify with it and their children grow up speaking Hebrew. The Church is now called upon to establish itself where it previously had no presence: in the Jewish quarter where the migrants live, in the heart of Israeli-Jewish society,” Neuhaus explained.

The people there are now very grateful for the new centre. Lourdes, a Filipino woman working as a home nurse, is committed to helping during church services in the community. On the edge of the inauguration ceremony she told ACN: “For us the centre is home. Here we meet our compatriots and we can pray. I’m happy we have it.”

The new pastoral centre in the south of Tel Aviv serves the community of Catholic migrants in Israel, who comprise mainly guest workers from the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka, as well as asylum seekers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The number of guest workers has increased sharply since, following the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation after 2000, most of the Palestinians who had been working previously in Israel were no longer granted a work permit. Many of the jobs they performed previously have now been taken over by guest workers.

Today about 40,000 Filipinos alone live in Israel with limited-term employment contracts. Like Lourdes, they work mostly in nursing occupations.  The Church sees the catechetical instruction and cultivation of a religious identity among migrant children as a special challenge. They attend Hebrew-speaking schools and receive no religious instruction there. With the help of “Aid to the Church in Need” a number of Hebrew-language books have therefore been published for religious instruction outside school.


Press Release – Iraq: “A secular state would be the solution”

30.04.2014 in ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq

On Wednesday Iraq will be voting for a new parliament – What kind of future can the country’s Christians expect? 

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin

Montreal, Wednesday April 30 – In view of the Iraqi parliamentary elections underway today, representatives of the Catholic Church in the country have expressed high expectations. Archbishop Amel Nona, the Chaldaic spiritual leader of Mosul in northern Iraq said when talking to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) on Wednesday, April  23rd: “We want our country to return to stable conditions where all can live in peace.”


Mgr Nona 1Iraq, the Archbishop continued, had to find a way out of the situation it had found itself in since the Iraq war eleven years ago. “Iraqis are fed up with what’s happening in their country.” He cited the examples of the precarious security situation, the corruption, the country’s economic plight and the emigration of highly trained people.


Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna of the Chaldaic Patriarchate in Baghdad also stressed to ACN on Wednesday the importance of the elections. “The eyes of the Iraqi people are fixed on these elections. For many they provide a reason to hope for a better future.” The Bishop went on to say that the Church leadership was encouraging the faithful to take part in the elections. “It is our task to strengthen the confidence of Christian citizens in government institutions and to improve these institutions in terms of human rights.”


Mgr Hanna 2Christian candidates

According to Bishop Hanna, Christian candidates were also running in the elections. On the one hand, the lists included various individuals from among whom members would be elected to the parliamentary seats reserved under the quota arrangement for Christians. On the other hand, Christians were running on democratic and liberal lists compiled by Islamic and non-Islamic citizens.


But Bishop Hanna showed little optimism when it came to the openness of the parties to Christian concerns. “All non-Christian parties have their agenda which is dominated by ideological and religious precepts. These parties lack civic and democratic maturity. They are so fixed on their own agenda that it’s difficult for them to reconcile it with the principles and interests of the Christian community.”


And yet, according to Archbishop Nona, the Christians had very fundamental concerns: “As Christians we want first and foremost in our country a genuine peace which respects human rights. People should be able to live their lives without having to fear that they will become a target because of their Christianity. A secular state would be the solution. By this I mean a constitution made for all citizens and not only for the majority.” Bishop Hanna explained that the future of the Christians depended on legislation which respected human rights and guaranteed equality, freedom and human dignity for all.


The elections for the 328 seats in the Iraqi parliament are taking place in the midst of a precarious security situation. According to United Nations figures, the year 2013 was the bloodiest since 2008 with 8868 left dead. But the attacks still continue in 2014. The UN recently claimed that 2028 Iraqis were killed in attacks by the end of March. In addition thousands were wounded. In recent times the political antagonism between the country’s Shiite majority and the Sunni minority has turned violent in the province of Anbar, where the majority of the inhabitants are Sunnis. Since the end of last year fierce clashes have occurred there between the central government and the radical Sunni groups.


Journey with ACN – Special on the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II

25.04.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Bosnia Herzegovina, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Madagascar, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which is regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with various projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

Exceptionally this week, we are offering you 2 stories (Lebanon and Madagascar) in homage to Popes John XXIII and John Paul II whose canonizations will take place this coming Sunday.

Today:   Special on the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Help for the construction of the John Paul II pastoral youth centre in Sarajevo

Following the breakup of the former communist Yugoslavia, a deadly civil war raged in Bosnia and Herzegovina for three years, from 1992 until 1995. The terrible final toll included 243,000 killed, 2 million people uprooted, or “ethnically cleansed” as a result of the splitting up into smaller, independent republics, numerous churches, religious houses, presbyteries and other Church properties deliberately targeted and destroyed. Even today, 19 years after the end of the war, the wounds are still evident.


Despite his age and ill-health at the time, Pope John Paul II would not be deterred from visiting the newly independent republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2003. During his homily there, he said:

“Beloved sons and daughters of this pilgrim Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I enfold you in my arms in order to tell you that you hold an important place in the heart of the Pope. He constantly brings before the Lord the suffering that still hinders your path and he shares with you, full of hope, your waiting for better days.”

He also assured them of his prayers that God “might inspire in everyone the desire for mutual forgiveness. Only in an atmosphere of true reconciliation will the memory of so many innocent victims and their death not have been in vain; instead they will encourage us to build new relations of fraternal love and understanding.”

Now, in the capital Sarajevo, a youth pastoral centre is being built that will bear the name of this great Pope. The first phase of the building has already been completed; now the second phase is beginning. The centre will offer young people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina the opportunity, whether as individuals or in groups, to take part in pastoral meetings, training sessions and leisure activities. The centre will also have overnight accommodation, so that programs of more than one day can be offered. The motto of the centre is: “Encounter – Reconciliation – shaping peace and a future together”. The director of the centre, Father Simo Marsic explains: “Young people in Bosnia are seeking role models and hope for the future. They long for genuine values and for understanding between the various ethnic groups. Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims must learn to shape the future together.”

The fact that the centre will bear the name of Pope John Paul II is no accident. As the director explains: “The guiding thought in choosing this name was the fact that Pope John Paul II was a builder of bridges with people of all kinds of different origins and beliefs. This bridge building is crucial for the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the Balkans in general and in Europe too. Pope John Paul II saw young people as “bearers of the future”. So it was that, at the World Youth Day in Rome in the year 2000, he entrusted to them the responsibility for the future of our country, just as he did during his visit to Banja Luka in 2003. We take these words as a mission statement for the work of our youth centre.”

Aid to the Church in Need is helping with a contribution of $305,600 CAN.



© ACN  - Father Pierino Limonta

© ACN – Father Pierino LimontaMadagascar

A new church in Toamasina, dedicated to Pope John XXIII

By ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

Father Pierino Limonta is delighted, for a new church is to be built in his parish. But what makes his joy even greater is the fact that Archbishop Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina has decided that it will be dedicated to Pope John XXIII. In this way it will commemorate both the 50th anniversary of the death of the Pope, who will be canonized on April 27 this year, and also the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. “It will be a church of the Council,” the archbishop explains.

“We are all delighted, and the school we will be building will also be named after Pope John XXIII,” says Father Pierino. An Italian by birth himself, he has been a missionary in Madagascar for 36 years. Most of this time he has spent in the jungle, where he shared with the people their joys, their prayers, their hopes and indeed also their sufferings, their sorrows and their sicknesses.

Now, however, he is facing a new challenge, since he has been appointed as parish priest of the Sacred Heart parish in Toamasina. He has exchanged life in the rain forest for life in the jungle of a rapidly developing port city on the east coast of this island nation in the Indian Ocean.

In one of the sprawling suburbs of the city of Toamasina, a new Catholic community has developed. This particular suburb is known as Andranomadio and it forms part of the Sacred Heart parish. The new church is to be built here, where people live in great poverty, but have a deep religious sense.. Holy Mass is being celebrated in Andronomadio for the time being at a temporary location, that is far too small for the many Catholic faithful who must journey a long way on foot to attend Holy Mass in the central parish church.

Work on the construction of the new church in memory of Pope John XXIII actually began on October 11, 2013, and footings are already laid. A school is under construction at the same time, for children to have some prospects for the future. Already, a community of religious sisters are caring for the kindergarten children and children in their first three years of life, but everything is still on a makeshift basis for now. The region around Toamasina is regularly struck by powerful tropical cyclones, and in 1986 the building was almost completely destroyed. It is therefore very important to build a strong and solid structure.



Pope John XXIII once wrote, “We are not here on earth to be custodians of a museum, but to tend a garden that is bursting with flourishing life and destined for a beautiful future.” That is exactly what the Catholic Church in Madagascar is striving to do. Thanks to the hard work and commitment of Father Pierino and the sisters, both the children and the adults in Andranomadio will now be able to look forward to a better future.

Father Pierino Limonta has asked ACN for $76,000 to assist with the cost of building the new church.



PRESS RELEASE : Vatican – Two Missionaries of Love to be canonized

25.04.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Father Werenfried van Straaten, Lebanon, Madagascar

Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translation by Amanda Bridget Griffin

Montreal, Friday April 25, 2014 – On Sunday April 27, in Saint Peter’s Square, millions of the faithful will wittness to the unfolding of the canonization of two Popes:  John XXIII and John Paul II. Considered by many as boundless and timeless Missionaries of Love, they devoted themselves to the mission of the Church, one of peace of earth, for peace is the fruit of love.


They reformed the Church…

Through historical gestures, both reformed the Church. John XXIII, through the Second Vatican Council and with his encyclical on peace “Pacem in Terris,” which dispensed a teaching addressing for the first time not only Catholics, but also “all men and women of good will.”  He always considered faith and humanity in relationship with God and with His Love.  “Man,” he said, “is never greater than when he kneels.”

As for John Paul II, he provoked the collapseof communism and overcame the divisions in Europe.   He reconciled the Church with Judaism and faith with science.  He promoted and advanced reconciliation with the Orthodox Church, stimulated dialogue between religions, launched several peace initiatives and raised consciousness about the value of the family always listening attentively to human rights issues in many regions around the world.  He taught that “war is always a defeat of humanity.”

MARIE-CLAUDE COMMUNIQUÉJohn Paul II is also the father of World Youth Days (WYD).  On this subject, Marie-Claude Lalonde, director of ACN Canada, recalls her participation in WYD Toronto in 2002: “When hearing hundreds of thousands of young people cheering for Pope John Paul II, I realized the extent to which this event was a planetary one, and how the Pontiff was considered to be ‘a star’ by the Media.   But this,” she added, “did not prevent him from becoming a solid rock, it was so evident that he defended the truth, without compromise, with love.”

…and encouraged ACNCANONISATION 2B

Both played an important role for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by encouraging its founder Father Werenfried to go elsewhere in the world.  In recalling a conversation he had with Pope John XXIII who had entrusted him with Latin America, the founder said: “When I spoke with Pope John XXIII, he always had a spirited response reserved.  However, once, he became very serious.  ‘Father,’ he said to me, ‘why do you think only of Eastern Europe?  Do not forget the need of the Church on the vastest continent is Catholic, help Latin America too.’ And this is how we began working in a new continent.”


Whereas on the subject of John Paul II, who entrusted him with Russia and the Orthodox Church, Father Werenfried liked to remember among many memories with the Holy Father, the one where he expressed his gratitude after more than 50 years of the Charity’s existence in these words: “In the half-century history of the ecclesiastical charity, you have brought a moving contribution (…) the world does not hear these Christians who suffer in silence.  One must have a heart awakened to the suffering of those whose voice cannot succeed to break the barriers to get to you.  You collect offerings; you bring them to those who wait, assuring them that their brothers have not abandoned them.  For all this, I express to you all of my gratitude… all of this is written in the Book of Life.”

Today, ACN supports notably construction projects for a church consecrated to John XXIII in Toamasina, in Madagascar, as well as the pastoral centre for youth named after John Paul II in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.  It is with these two Popes that the Charity took on a great breadth, through prayer, sacrifice and creative fidelity.  They who were so long and so often on their knees before the altar, will now themselves, be raised unto the altar.

JOURNEY WITH ACN in the Holy Land

18.04.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Holy Land, Israel, Journey with ACN

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which is regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with various projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week again:   The Holy Land



By Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin




It was at the Latin Patriarchy of Jerusalem that we met Hanna Bendcowsky, the Program Coordinator at the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations (JCJCR), a project supported by Aid to the Church in Need.  After greeting us, she gave an animated presentation followed by a question period which was no less interesting.

The JCJCR is a non-profit organization established in 2004 to respond to the challenges of the unique and complex encounter of an empowered Jewish majortiy in Israel and the Palestinian Arab Christian minority in the Holy Land.  The Center promotes peace through programs that overcome ignorance and prejudice and foster understanding and empathy between Jews and the local Christians in the Holy Land.

All of the Center’s activities are planned and implemented in accordance with a two-part strategic focus:


Developing and implementing projects and programs that combat prejudices and negative stereotypes; contribute to understanding and appreciation of the other’s religious/cultural/national narrative, traditions and practices; create a spirit of cooperation by drawing on shared values to work toward common goals.

Hanna Bendcowsky, the Program Coordinator at the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations (JCJCR)

Hanna Bendcowsky, the Program Coordinator at the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations (JCJCR)


To reach wider circles of society, JCJCR strives to network with other organizations and institutions, in order to enhance awareness of the significance of Jewish-Christian relations to peace-building in the Holy Land and to ensure the welfare of religious minorities in the Holy Land.

The JCJCR consistently seeks to work with multipliers, such as school teachers and other educators, guides, facilitators, leaders in the local communities, young adults training for leadership, and governmental representatives. To date, JCJCR has collaborated with over 100 Jewish, interfaith, educational and public bodies.