ACN International


Week of prayer for peace in Syria

02.09.2013 in ACN International, Prayer, Syria

Prayer and Intercession for Peace in Syria



God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria
Comfort those who suffer violence
Console those who mourn the dead
Give strength to Syria’s neighbouring countries to welcome the refugees
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms
And protect those who are committed to peace.

God of hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with their enemies
Inflame the Universal Church with compassion for the people of Syria
And give us hope for a future built on justice for all
We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and Light of the world.


Fourth day: Help the nations that border Syria, as they welcome the refugees

20121119_010 (1)


According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, there are 1,971,003 Syrian refugees, above all in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. In addition, there are many refugees who are not registered because they are afraid, or who are displaced within Syria itself.
“Every second of the day, I have only one desire: to return to my homeland. My heart is wounded. The only thing that keeps me here is my children. Even if it meant going back to die, if it were just me, I would go back,” laments a mother of two children who has taken refuge in Turkey.
It is impossible to imagine the future for this country, this peaceful land that once was the home of many refugees from the Middle East: “We fled Iraq during the war and went to Syria. We had managed to rebuild our lives, but almost two years ago, we had to flee again to Iraq. There my son was hit with a bullet in the head as he was playing soccer. He survived, but with paralysis, and the bullet is embedded. Surgery is dangerous. We arrived in Turkey two months ago. A family took us in. Maybe here they can help us.”

In Lebanon, there are more than 700,000 refugees. Archbishop John Darwish writes: “We’ve been helping for 10 months. We began with 19 families. But their number has increased drastically. Now we are helping 580 families. If the conflict gets more complicated and the violence extends to the whole country, this number will grow even more.”

We pray for all those who have had to abandon their families, their homes, their land and their property. For all those who are hungry and do not have a roof over their heads. We pray for those who live in refugee camps. We pray for all the countries receiving the displaced, for all of those all over the world who are offering aid, assistance and care to the emigrants and refugees. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for Syria, pray for us.

To be continued…

Press release: Syria – “Military intervention by the West would be disastrous”

28.08.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Syria


Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Military intervention by the West against the Assad regime in Syria would be disastrous, according to the head of the country’s Melkite Greek Catholic Church, who says nobody can be sure who was responsible for last week’s chemical weapons attack.

Speaking from Lebanon following a pastoral mission to the conflict-ridden Syrian capital, Damascus, Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Catholic Church Patriarch of Antioch, stressed that in spite of the ongoing conflict, reconciliation initiatives were still viable and should be the top priority for all countries concerned with the crisis.

In the interview yesterday (Tuesday, 27th August) with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregorios spelled out his doubts about the credibility of some of the evidence emerging from centres of conflict in Syria. He said: “Who can know who was behind the chemical weapons attack?”

To work for peace instead of calling for violence

Criticising US policy towards Syria, the Patriarch added: “You should not accuse the government one day and then accuse the opposition the next. That is how you fuel violence and hatred. The Americans have been fuelling the situation for two years.”

While condemning chemical weapons attacks, he highlighted concerns about foreign fighters coming into Syria, a problem he said was compounded by the flow of arms into the country, actions he described as “immoral”. He said: “Many people are coming from outside Syria to fight in the country. These fighters are fuelling fundamentalism and Islamism.”

Patriarch Gregorios said the USA, Russia and other world powers should put together a peace plan. “It is time to finish with these weapons and, instead of calling for violence, international powers need to work for peace.”

Patriarch Gregorios, who ordained three bishops on Sunday (25th August) during his trip to Syria, described the situation in his country as “tragic”. The Patriarch said that 450,000 Syrian Christians – nearly a third of the total – were either displaced within the country or were refugees abroad.

Problems in Damascus



He highlighted problems in Damascus, which until now has acted as a refuge for Christians and others fleeing Homs and other centres north of the capital where violence has been especially severe. He said that on Monday afternoon (26th August), soon after he left the country, two bombs fell in the Old City of Damascus, both of them very close to the Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarchate, where he was based.

One explosive fell on a Scout centre, about 10 meters from the entrance to his patriarchate, killing two adult male bystanders. No children were hurt. He said: “We do not know if the attackers are targeting the Churches. It could be that we are attacked because we are close to an army base. The extremists are wanting to fuel hatred between the Christians and Muslim [groups].”

The Patriarch highlighted the work of a relief centre at the Greek Catholic Patriarchate, set up at the end of 2011, and now providing food, medicine and other help to 2,800 displaced families. “While the road from Beirut to Damascus is normally safe, once you are inside Damascus it is very difficult. In Damascus, bombs can fall on your head at any time.”

ACN is organizing a Novena



He renewed calls for prayer, stating: “We are happy that our people are responding to this situation with prayer. Throughout this whole time of crisis, our churches have been almost full. Stressing how many Christian lives had been saved, the Patriarch said: “The people feel that in spite of the problems, God is granting miracles for them.”

In conclusion, he said: “There is a mixture of hope and despair. People do not know what their future may be. They are very concerned about their children and about vulnerable people – including the disabled. People feel fear but in spite of that they are strong in their faith.”

To support our Syrian brother in prayer, ACN, in collaboration with its National Offices is organizing a novena. Information is forthcoming.

Press release : Holy Land = Between hope and scepticism

27.08.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International

Oliver Maksan, ACN International



When it comes to the current peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians the Jerusalem Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali feels torn between hope and scepticism. Talking to the international Catholic pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Shomali, who is responsible in the Latin Patriarchate for the Palestinian areas, said (last Friday): “My heart, filled with hope and faith, tells me negotiations will succeed. My sceptical mind, bringing to the surface the past rounds of negotiations – Madrid, Oslo, Camp David, River Plantation, Sharm El-Sheikh, Amman etc. – and how they failed, tells the opposite. “

“In the meantime, I feel the need not to dress up as a prophet but to continue praying and inviting others to do the same.” Should the talks fail, Bishop Shomali expressed his wish that there will not be a third Palestinian intifada.” The experience of the two last ones was destructive. Fighting should continue on the political level.”

“Their moderating role can be of great help”

Bishop Shomali described the role of Israel’s and Palestine’s Christians in the conflict as a moderating one. “They pray and believe that peace remains possible. They are moderate actors in their respective country. Some Palestinian Christians are present in the negotiations, in a direct or indirect way. Their moderating role can be of great help.”

20121207_004When asked what the Church’s position was on what status East Jerusalem should be accorded as part of a final status solution, Shomali expressed the view: “Jerusalem should be a city for two peoples and three religions, which should have equal rights and dignity.” Bishop Shomali, a Palestinian by birth, went on to stress that Jerusalem should remain an open city enjoying a particular status and international guarantees. “For the details of the implementation of such vision, we need creative negotiators, open to new solutions in order to deal with all the obstacles such as the settlements and how to keep open Jerusalem and all its holy Places,” Shomali stated.

Concerning the position of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, according to whom the conflict was not fundamentally about Jewish settlements on the West Bank, but about the Palestinians’ refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, Bishop Shomali said: “I believe that Palestinians should recognize Israel as a State, with full rights and secure borders. It is up to Israelis, not Palestinians, to decide what character this state should have; in the same way it is up to Israelis and not to others to decide who is a ‘Jew’ and who is not. In a reciprocal way, it will be requested of Israel that they recognize an Arab country as such without specifying whether this Arab country should be secular or ‘Islamic’.”

In conclusion Bishop Shomali stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was no longer the only conflict which threatened the stability of the Middle East today. “Since the so called ‘Arab spring’ there are new realities on the ground. But this conflict remains an important factor.”

Ukraine – “This place will be the heart of our Church!”

27.08.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, CONSTRUCTION, Ukraine

Major Archbishop Shevchuk dedicates the Greek Catholic Cathedral in Kiev

Maria Lozano, AED International

Adaptation Robert Lalonde, AED CanadaACN-20130823-00248

On the invitation of Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevczuk – Head of the Ukrainian Church which is in full communion with the Holy See – a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) attended the dedication of the newly-built Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kiev. The dedication took place on 18 August on the occasion of the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of Prince Vladimir in Kievan Rus, the precursor of today’s states of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

“We have built it together!”

More than 25,000 faithful attended the three-hour liturgy, including pilgrims from Ukraine, Eastern and Western Europe as well as Canada, Australia, the USA and Scandinavia among others. The Papal Legate Cardinal Audrys Bačkis, Apostolic Nuncio Mons. Thomas Edward Gullikson, and more than 40 bishops from Ukraine as well as from the aforementioned diaspora regions also celebrated the Mass together with more than 500 priests. Only a small proportion were able to attend the celebrations inside the Cathedral. The great majority of the faithful watched the liturgy on screens outside. The liturgy was broadcast live on Ukrainian television.

ACN-20130823-00243The sermon by Major Archbishop Shevchuk was aimed in particular at the Ukrainian youth, who represent the future of this Church: “Jesus Christ be praised! 1025 years ago, our people became a part of God’s people. We are the people of God! And so the city of Kiev has become the centre of our Christianity…Father! You are our God! Happy is the people whose Father is the Lord!” Again and again, Shevchuk emphasised the significance of the “Sobor”, which in the Slavic language means “the assembly” but also “the cathedral”: “Our ‘Sobor’ is in Kiev. This ‘place’ will be the heart of our Church! We have built it together! It is our house! I thank you for your aid from Ukraine, from Western and Eastern Europe, and from the other continents!”

Our building project : a spiritual dimension

ACN has also given its support to the building of the “Sobor Voskresinnya Khrystovoho” Cathedral to the tune of $548 000 in recent years. Magda Kaczmarek, head of the charity’s Ukraine country section, was especially pleased to be able to be present for the project’s completion: “I am delighted to be able to be here, because I can feel how young and flourishing the Catholic Church in Ukraine is. When I see so many children and young people here, I notice once again that our building projects not only have a material dimension but also a spiritual one. We are not only erecting a building, we are also helping to build the future of our Church.”

An especially moving part of the liturgy was the renewal of the baptismal promise and the Blessing of the Waters at the Dnieper River by Major Archbishop Shevchuk. The Papal Letter, read by Cardinal Audrys Bački, further indicated the significance of the event. The 1025th anniversary of the baptism of Kievan Rus by Saint Vladimir was an occasion of hope for the full unity of all Christians among the Ukrainian people, it said.ACN-20130823-00247

Relics of the three Apostles Peter, Paul and Andrew are preserved and honoured in the Cathedral together with those of two popes who died on Ukrainian territory – Clement I and Martin I – as well as the Ukrainian martyrs Jozafat Kuncewicz, Mykola Czarneckyj and Josaphat Kocylovskyj.

The largest Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine in full communion with Rome has a congregation of approximately 4.2 million, at least half of whom are living abroad. At the end of the 1990s, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar decided to transfer the seat of the Head of the Church in Ukraine from Lviv to Kiev, and with that move the construction of the Cathedral in Kiev began.

Egypt – “We ask God to protect the churches, the people and our country!”

23.08.2013 in ACN International, CONSTRUCTION, egypt

In an urgent letter, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak has called on Aid to the Church in need (ACN) for help for the faithful in his Patriarchate[1]. ACN has agreed to give aid to raise the level of protection for Christians. Protective walls around churches to increase security for Christians will be built.

Catholic Coptic Patriarch Ibrahim Sidrak

Catholic Coptic Patriarch Ibrahim Sidrak

Teresa Engländer, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

“We got many threats, and we ask God to protect the churches, the people and our country.” The letter from Patriarch Ibrahim is no ordinary message. It is the urgent appeal of a shepherd who fears for the safety of his flock; a call for help from a country that can no longer offer protection to its citizens.

Every day, Egypt is shaken by violence. The struggle between the various parties is ruthless and implacable. Extremist groups spread chaos and fear; government and religious buildings are their preferred targets. “More than 40 churches, more than 100 houses and 150 shops belonging to Christian people, police stations, the library of Alexandria, and museums have been attacked or burned.” This is the terrible effect of the war. And in the middle of this madness are the civilians, entirely at the mercy of the unrest.

Fire at the Association of Jesuit brothers in Minia

Fire at the Association of Jesuit brothers in Minia

The Christians in the Patriarchate no longer feel safe. In Kobry El Koba (Qobba) – a district of Cairo – employees go to work in fear of their lives. This district of Cairo has become a hub of the fighting, because the ministry of defence is nearby. In the port city of Alexandria, terrorism holds even greater sway and Christians there are subjected to “continuous assaults”, Patriarch Ibrahim writes. Demonstrations around the Coptic Catholic Cathedral in Alexandria represent a permanent danger to the faithful, who wish only to celebrate Mass without fear.

In order to at least give the faithful a feeling of security, the worried Patriarch wishes to build walls around the cathedral in Alexandria and all ecclesiastical buildings in Kobry El Koba. He is aware that these walls will provide but little protection “against assaults, throwing stones and starting fires from outside,” but they will help to limit the Christians’ fears and increase their feeling of security. The Patriarchate is too poor to be able to afford the cost of the walls by itself. “This is not just a project, it is an urgent pastoral request, an appeal.” That is why ACN will provide an amount of $31 600.

[1] The Coptic Catholic Patriarchate, which is in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, has its headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. The patriarchal jurisdiction covers all Coptic believers in the world.

Press release: Zimbabwe – Election observers accuse government of electoral fraud

22.08.2013 in ACN International

Reinhard Backes, ACN Internationalzimbabwe jpg

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Montreal, August 22, 2013 – The presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe on 31 July 2013 were marred by grave irregularities. This was recently affirmed by Father Oskar Wermter in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Father Oskar, a Jesuit who works as the theological and pastoral representative for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), stated clearly: “It is a matter of a grave electoral fraud. We ourselves saw how many of the electorate were turned away, how chaotically the voters’ lists were drawn up. An election date in September or October would have been appropriate, but Mugabe wanted the election to be held quickly.”

Father Wermter went on to explain: “Altogether, 2,700 Catholics were involved as electoral observers, including bishops and priests, in order to emphasise the importance of free and non-violent elections.” He expressed concern at the result and the consequences of the presidential and parliamentary elections: “President Mugabe’s party now has a two thirds majority, which means that they can change the constitution that was only just approved in March by a referendum.”

zimbabwe 2AAccording to Father Wermter, the result of the elections will further exacerbate the extremely difficult economic situation of the country. “Zimbabwe is economically isolated. Trade is suffering as a result; there is a lack of investment, because the government will give no guarantee of legal security to companies potentially willing to invest. Yet the country needs investment if it is to combat the catastrophically high unemployment, above all among young people.”

In the view of this Jesuit priest, the absence of future prospects and the growing poverty mean that yet more Zimbabweans will emigrate. Millions already live outside the country, he points out. “People are depending on money sent by their relatives from abroad. Or else they try their hand at trading with goods from neighbouring countries. These are not a sign of healthy economic circumstances, but simply survival strategies. The government is no longer trusted, since economic concerns are always sacrificed to political ones”, Father Oskar explains.zimbabwe 3A

According to him, the Catholic Church, which has been almost uninterruptedly present and active in Zimbabwe for five decades, is “in many respects the only help and support of the people, above all in regard to education, the hospitals and a certain level of social support. ”


The Holy Land – Occupation: a daily reality for Palestinian Christians

15.08.2013 in ACN International

Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating once again. What are Christians in the Holy Land to expect from this? And how do they fare under Israeli occupation?

By Oliver Maksan for ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN CanadaPALESTINE-1

“The Jewish settlements surround us on all sides and make life very difficult for us Palestinians.” Louis Hazboun was born in Bethlehem. Since last year this amiable man has been parish priest of the Latin Catholic parish in Bir Zeit, a small town close to Ramallah. There is a university here; otherwise there is not much to see. This particular area of the West Bank, occupied since 1967 by Israel, is rural and picturesque, with olive orchards and small fields surrounding the quiet town, whose population is a mixture of Muslims and Christians.

Roughly 4,000 of its 7,000 or so inhabitants are Muslims; the remainder are Christians, divided among Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans. It is a region of peaceful coexistence with a long tradition. Nonetheless, the idyllic appearance is deceptive, on account of the Jewish settlements surrounding it.

“Again and again the settlers shut off our water or electricity, because they need it themselves. That very much restricts us here – and in our own country, moreover! We experience every day what occupation means,” said Father Hazboun to visiting representatives from ACN.  He also points out the checkpoints that so massively restrict the Palestinians in their freedom of movement. Often, 18-year-old Israeli soldiers will decide whether an 80-year-old man can pass through or not. “The approach is extremely capricious and the whole procedure is humiliating,” comments Father Hazboun.

PALESTINE-2AApart from this, there are also the economic effects of the occupation. “Israel decides what can be imported. For example, if the Israelis have a surplus of olives, then they flood our markets and knock our farmers’ prices here through the floor. Yet for many Christian families, their agriculture is crucial.”  Previously, before the building of the wall separating Israel from the occupied territories, many Christians from the town had worked in nearby Jerusalem, which is only around 12 miles (20 km) away. Today that is mostly impossible, owing to the time-consuming checkpoint controls and the entry restrictions.

“A kind of forced emigration”

Only a handful of Christians from Bir Zeit work in the Latin patriarchate, or as doctors and teachers in the Christian schools. “As much as we would like to do so, however, the Church simply cannot employ all the Christians,” remarks Father Hazboun regretfully. As a result many Christians in the town are unemployed – and with dire consequences. “We have a whole succession of grown men who would love to marry and establish a family. But they simply cannot afford to do so. Consequently, any young person who can do so, goes away.”

Yusef Daher views this Christian exodus from the Holy Land with great concern. A Catholic layman, he runs the Inter-Church Centre in Jerusalem, an interdenominational establishment that advocates the rights of Christians in the Holy Land. “There are around a million

Palestinian Christians in the world today. But just 20% of them live in what today constitutes Israel and the occupied territories. The rest are scattered all over the world.” Of these around 150,000 Christians are found in Israel itself, while the rest – around 50,000 – reside in East Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. “The emigration of the Christians from the Holy Land tends to go in waves,” Yusef Daher tells ACN. “The last great wave came as a result of the second intifada, after 2000.”

The situation in Jerusalem itself presents a special case, he tells us, since East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel, though it is still claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Arab Christians living here, like most other Palestinians living under Israeli rule since 1967, have no Israeli citizenship but only a residence permit. And they lose even this if they reside for any length of time outside Jerusalem, with relatives on the West Bank, for example. “Hence there is a kind of forced emigration taking place here. As a result the number of Christians in Jerusalem is declining dramatically,” explains Yusef Daher, an expert on the situation.PALESTINE-3A

Another reason for the sense of oppression among Palestinian Christians, he believes, is the capricious approach by the Israelis to the granting of entry permits for the major Christian feasts, when numerous Christians from the occupied territories want to travel to Jerusalem. Not everyone is granted them. All this Daher sees as an expression of a fundamental discrimination by Israel between Jews and non-Jews. “Palestinian Christians suffer just like all other Palestinians. As long as one is not Jewish, one receives the same discriminatory treatment,” he says.

Meanwhile, with regard to the recently resumed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, he has no great expectations. “We Palestinians naturally hope that the peace talks between us and the Israelis will ultimately lead to a two-state solution. But at the present time, I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic. There have been talks often enough without them leading to anything. But one thing I know for sure – in the long run one cannot deny a free people their own state.”

Press release : Egypt : Christians are as hopeful as they are anxious

14.08.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, egypt

By Oliver Maksan for ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN CanadaÉGYPTE 14 AOUT 1

Montreal, August 14, 2013 – “The Islamists are taking revenge on us Christians!” These words were the commentary of Coptic-Catholic Bishop of Assiut, Kyrillos William Samaan,  with regard to the latest Islamist attacks on Christians and Christian institutions in Egypt  while in conversation on Monday (August 12) with the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN).

The Bishop was referring among other things to events in the towns of Sohag, Fayum and Beni Suef and on the Sinai Peninsula. There, churches were attacked by Islamists, Christians threatened and in some cases resulting in fatalities. In the town of Sohag it was said that Islamic extremists raised the black Al-Qaida flag over a church. Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had accused Egypt’s Christians of being jointly responsible with the military and the forces of the Mubarak regime for toppling the Islamist head of state Mohamed Mursi on July 3 of this year. “This is absurd, of course. 33 million Egyptians had demanded his resignation. We Christians were not the only ones to demonstrate against Mursi,” Bishop Kyrillos said. In view of the current security situation he was worried, but he did not wish to reproach law enforcement. “The police and the other organs of the state are at present busy keeping the Islamists under control.”

ÉGYPTE 14 AOUT 2The Bishop stressed, however, that the climate had changed considerably for Egypt’s Christians since the fall of Mursi. “We feel at home again in Egypt,” Kyrillos explained. He went on to emphasize that non-Christian publicists would now speak up for Christians by stressing that Christians should not be expected to pay the price of democratization.

Optimism for the future constitution

The Bishop also saw it as a positive sign that in Sohag or Assiut, for example, moderate Muslims had defended Christian churches against demonstrating Islamists. “This is the true Egypt: Christians and Muslims are united,” Bishop Kyrillos continued. According to him, this year’s message from Pope Francis at the end of the Islamic fast of Ramadan was received very positively. For the first time the Pope had used the opportunity to address Muslims worldwide personally. In previous years the letter had been published by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue on the Pope’s behalf.

The Bishop criticized the deposed Muslim brothers for refusing to accept the new government’s offers of reconciliation. “The problem is that they still want to have an Islamic state. The majority of Egyptians are happy, however, that this has not come about. They want a liberal state,” Bishop Kyrillos claimed. He said he was optimistic therefore with regard to the future constitution. A 50-strong committee would soon be revising the constitution drawn up under the Islamist Mursi and adopted by referendum. Representatives of Egyptian Christians would also be collaborating in this effort. “All social forces will work on it. I am confident that state and religion will be separated. After all, mixing them is the source of much evil.”ÉGYPTE 14 AOUT 3

The Coptic-Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, the head of the largest Church in Egypt, made a plea on Monday for the avoidance of further bloodshed in the face of denominational tensions. According to media reports the Patriarch has suspended the weekly audiences in his Cairo cathedral for fear of attacks. Previously 16 Egyptian human rights groups had accused the Islamists of stirring up feelings against Egypt’s Christians since June 30, the day of the mass protests against Mursi. At the same time they criticized the state for not doing enough to protect Christian institutions and individuals.

Brazil “Come on in … it takes less than 15 minutes…”

07.08.2013 in ACN Brazil, ACN Canada, ACN International

 15,000 young people visit ACN’s exhibition at WYD Rio 2013

By ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

“Come on in … it takes less than 15 minutes…” This inviting phrase displayed on a two-metre-high screen was seen by the approx. 15,000 young people who came to the exhibition in Rio de Janeiro organized by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) during World Youth Day.

The exhibition was set up to receive ten visitors every three minutes, but on the first day this number was increased to 15 visitors. On the final day, so many people wanted to see the exhibition – which was part of the official cultural program of WYD Rio 2013 – that it was even necessary to take groups of up to 25 persons. The national and international team of ACN staff was supplemented by 40 voluntary WYD helpers to welcome the young people who came to the exhibition venue at Largo da Carioca.

“What impressed me most was that neither the rain nor the cold nor the adversities could diminish the success of the exhibition or the young people’s interest,” said Father Evaristo Debiasi, ACN’s ecclesiastical assistant in Brazil. “The youth is really looking for something very profound, and they see that it is Christ alone who can give – in the very depths of their heart – the answer to what they most desire in life: love and happiness. I could hardly have imagined that, with its short videos, ACN’s exhibition could be so capable of touching the hearts of thousands of people.”

A desire to join in Church action 

The majority of visitors were Brazilians aged between 19 and 25 years who had travelled with groups from the various cities of the country. But the attendance of people working nearby was also noticeable because the ACN exhibition was held at a very central location,and many people were able to take the opportunity to visit it during their lunch break. Among the foreign visitors, people from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Mexico were represented particularly strongly. The latter were especially moved by the film of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

JMJ - 2The exhibition comprised six darkened tents in which short videos were shown displaying the missionary work of the Church. These made a particular impact on the hearts of the young people. At the end of their tour through the tents, they found the Most Blessed Sacrament set out in a very brightly lit chapel with a translucent roof within the last tent. On encountering the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, they knelt or sat on the floor to meditate – for much longer than the 15 minutes foreseen by the exhibition’s organizers – thus demonstrating that the new generation, which calls itself “the youth of the Pope,” thirsts after God and is also prepared to make sacrifices for what is worthwhile.

Bruno Pires is a 23-year-old Brazilian. He grew up in a Catholic family, but later became alienated from his faith. He found his way back to the Church when, as he put it in his own dramatic formulation, he felt himself to be “a piece of junk that was no longer worthy of life.” He earned the fare for the journey by selling cakes and pizzas: “I was not aware of ACN before, but you are showing what the Church is and what it has done, and this exhibition definitely arouses the desire in young people to join in; perhaps not in a faraway missionary station, but certainly in their own everyday life.” The young man declared: “The exhibition was very dark. One could see the work of the Church, but one could also see sad and dramatic situations. At the end of the show, one entered a totally brightly-lit room in which the Eucharist was displayed, and there one saw Jesus Christ, the light that can change all of that.”

After passing through the chapel, the young people entered the International Pavilion. This held the booths, not only of various national offices of ACN from all round the world, but also of various religious orders and missionary movements that came into dialogue with the young people and opened new horizons for them.

“The exhibition was a great help to me in considering what I can do to help the Church and to help people,” said Malgorzata Szwed, a young woman from Poland who worked as a voluntary helper in the exhibition. “This work of raising people’s awareness of the various possibilities for giving aid throughout the world is very important.”

15,000 young people now carry the name of “Aid to the Church in Need” in their hearts

The exhibition was also visited by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who took the opportunity to address a word of thanks to ACN’s benefactors: “I am very pleased to express my greetings to the benefactors of ACN. I was born in the former Czechoslovakia. Our country received much aid from Father Werenfried, as did many other countries of Eastern Europe during the Communist period. This work has now been expanded to cover the whole world, and the support given by the many donations in all countries, also here in Brazil, is a great help for the many needs of the Church. I would like to express my most sincere thanks to ACN’s benefactors: ‘Muito obrigado!’”

JMJ - 3Now, 15,000 young people carry the name of “Aid to the Church in Need” in theirhearts. In order not to lose sight of the charity’s mission, the exhibition showed not only what the Church is doing now but also what still remains to be done. “We believe it is very important for the young people to see that faith is not just a festival. It is necessary for us to do something to make the world around us a better place. And this depends on every one of us,” concluded José Corrêa, the Director of ACN in Brazil.

The exhibition was open from 22 until 26 July. It took place at a central location in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. To the astonishment of the visitors, the Popemobile drove past carrying the Holy Father, who greeted and blessed the young people.

Bolivia – Thanks for the Bibles

01.08.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Bolivia, Pastoral aid, Uncategorized

By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Bolivia is regarded as the poorest country of Latin America, and two thirds of its almost 11 million inhabitants, the majority of indigenous descent, currently live in poverty – many, 40%, live in extreme poverty. Poverty is not the only problem that plagues these people for in the last few years, in a similar to Venezuela, the situation in Bolivia has grown increasingly alarming in regard to freedom of religion and freedom of opinion.

Consequently it is all the more important to strengthen Catholics in their faith. The parish of Cuerpo de Cristo in the city of El Alto (population 900,000-plus in the high altitude of the Andes some 13,000 feet (4000 m) above sea level, is working intensively with the Sacred Scriptures.

On Sunday parishioners bring a Bible with them to Holy Mass and afterwards read the texts from the day’s liturgy together, followed with a time of reflection and then they endeavour to answer the questions that the parish priest has prepared for each session. This is a very fruitful form of catechesis.

Similarly, the 41 religious education teachers are showing their pupils how to better get to know the Word of God. Bishop Jesús Juárez Párraga fully supports this initiative initiated by his parish priest and would like as many of the faithful as possible to benefit from it. But the people in El Alto are extremely poor and few of them can afford to purchase a copy of the Bible.

And so, Father Sebastian, the parish priest has turned to ACN for help in purchasing 700 copies of the Scriptures. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to provide the 6,785 dollars requested and help insure the parish continues with this valuable Bible study initiative.