ACN International


Journey with ACN – Pakistan

11.10.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Pakistan, Persecution of Christians, Rosary, Shahbaz Bhatti, Uncategorized

Shahbaz Bhatti« If in the struggle to defend the rights of minorities and justice for oppressed people –if Jesus Christ wishes me to shed my blood, I will do it!  I am ready to go until the last drop to fight injustice. And I’m not frightened.”  

Shahbaz Bhatti was the former Minister for Religious Minorities in Pakistan; he was assassinated at the age of 42,on March 2, 2011. 

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.  This weekly newsletter will an opportunity for us to acquaint you with the needs of the Church and the projects we have realized together in countries around the world.

This week: Pakistan


Help for the printing of 30,000 copies of a booklet on the Rosary in Urdu 

pakistan1There are over 1.2 million Catholics living in Pakistan today. Compared with a Muslim population of over 180 million, they are no more than a tiny minority, however, and into the bargain they are socially marginalised, oppressed, and often the victims of violent assaults. But despite this, the people’s faith is strong.

A crucial aspect of this faith is the veneration of Our Lady, the Mother of God. Almost every church in the country has a chapel or grotto dedicated to Mary, where many of the faithful go to pray after Holy Mass. Indeed, Mary is also venerated by many Muslims. Although women in Pakistan can undoubtedly be seen as oppressed in many ways, within the home environment the mother figure is still highly regarded. As one Pakistani proverb has it, “Paradise lies beneath the feet of the mother”. Or, as Father Emmanuel Parvez, of Pansara in the diocese of Faisalabad puts it, “Mary, as a mother figure, is nurturing, caring, loving.” He continues: “Everyone comes to Our Lady, especially those who are sad or sick, or who have problems. Many childless women come to her, asking to be able at last to become mothers. Others bring their little children and lay them at Mary’s feet, asking her: “Care for my child, just as you cared for the Child Jesus!”

pakistan2Now, in the Year of Faith, the bishops of Pakistan wants to strengthen the prayer of the Rosary in every diocese of the country. As a result,they have asked ACN to help for the printing of 30,000 copies of an illustrated prayer booklet – simply entitled “The Rosary” – in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. They are confident that this will help and encourage the Catholic faithful to pray the Rosary in their parishes and in their homes. ACN is helping with $12,026 towards the cost of printing this booklet.


To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free
1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.


Central African Republic: Hope for a country on the brink

10.10.2013 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Central Africa, Central African Republic, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need
Christine du Coudray ©AED/ACN

Christine du Coudray


Christine du Coudray, head of the African section of the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”, speaks about the dramatic situation in the Central African Republic.

The interview was conducted by Eva-Maria Kolmann


You have welcomed the United Nations Security Council resolution which opens the way for intervention in the Central African Republic. Why?

Du Coudray:  We are very happy that something is happening at last. Only a rapid intervention by the international community can free the country from Séléka’s regime of terror. It’s five to twelve! The country is sinking further and further into chaos, and there is a danger of a conflagration which could destabilise the whole region.  This country needs help, not only from the aid organisations but also from the international community! The UN resolution is the first glimmer of hope for a country which has been on the brink for months.


 The fate of the Central African Republic is on the whole of hardly any interest to the general public. Why this indifference?

Du Coudray: The Central African Republic is a forgotten country which also plays no role on the world map of the powerful. Many people don’t even know that the Central African Republic exists! For them “Central Africa” is a term for the geographical region somewhere in the middle of Africa. That’s why the fate of the country also arouses little interest in the media. This is highly regrettable.


On 13 September President Djotodia officially dissolved the Séléka rebel alliance, which helped him to power in March of this year. How do you assess the present situation?

Du Coudray: The situation is becoming steadily more dramatic. Torture, lootings and the murder of civilians are continuing unabated, whole villages are being burnt down and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee. Our partners on the spot speak of sometimes “apocalyptic scenes”. The ex-rebels are going about their mischief unhindered. Even the road into the capital of Bangui is still in the hands of the ex-rebels. This is actually inconceivable given the fact that they have officially been dissolved. How can a state tolerate people who are regarded as “bandits” controlling the main access roads into the capital?


 On the road out of the capital there was a dramatic incident last week …



Du Coudray: Yes, on 3 October the car of the Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera was shot at by a member of the dissolved Séléka at a road block as it left the capital Bangui. On the other side of the road policemen were standing, but they did nothing to stop Séléka rebels’ actions, who, after all, have been declared criminals. The minister responsible for security in the country has not apologised for the incident, quite the opposite. He attacked the victims and accused them of “acting provocatively”. Why does a security minister come to the defence of bandits? In the course of the same day the missionary was followed by cars containing a number of ex-rebels, who tried to cut him off. There are indications that this was an attempted abduction. To put it briefly: Séléka can still make trouble completely without hindrance, and not only in remote villages, but in broad daylight in the country’s capital!

Question: It was announced that the former rebels would be disarmed, but this appears to be taking place mainly on paper …

Du Coudray: Yes, that is indeed the case. Within three weeks it is clear that only 123 weapons have been seized. It’s a complete farce! There are 25,000 ex-rebels in the country terrorising the population and the government is doing nothing to stop them!


Question: What do you expect of the country’s present government?

Du Coudray: The government must finally meet its responsibilities! The schools are closed, wages and salaries are not being paid, the state’s revenues are in the hands of Séléka, the economy is in a terrible state and tensions are rising.  Public life does not function and the country is still being destroyed. Since nobody wants to stop Séléka’s doings members of the population sometimes take measures to defend themselves, and this exacerbates the situation further. But people are simply desperate and don’t know what to do. Who can they call on to help them? The state must finally do its duty. Even in the past it was almost exclusively the Church which took care of the population.


Question: The chaos that reigns in the country is also being fanned from outside. What are the forces involved here?

Du Coudray: A major portion of the Séléka rebels come from the Sudan or Chad. Many of them speak neither the national language Sango nor French, but only Arabic. A part of the “rebels” are now importing Islamism, which has not existed in the country to date. Up to now the co-existence of Christians and Muslims has been good.  Repeatedly there are joint peace initiatives of all the religious communities represented in the country. The native Muslims do not want Islamists and are themselves victims of the attacks!


Questions: We can we as Christians do to support our brothers and sisters in the Central African Republic?



Du Coudray: The people in the Central African Republic urgently need our prayers! The Month of the Holy Rosary in particular gives us the opportunity to pray for our brothers and sisters in this long-suffering country. We Christians have no other weapons than prayer! Let us take up the rosary and plea for peace and protection for this country’s population. In the midst of suffering, death and despair there are also signs today that the Lord has not forgotten this country. The Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga, recently ordained seven young men as priests. Is that not a cause of joy? In his sermon on 29 September he said: “Our faith in Jesus, the victor over evil, demands that we bear greater witness to the hope which lives within us.” The Church also bears witness to this hope on the Calvary of this country, the hope for the resurrection which conquers death.



04.10.2013 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Journey with ACN, Nicaragua, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.  This weekly newsletter will an opportunity for us to acquaint you with the needs of the Church and the projects we have realized together in countries around the world.

Today:  Nicaragua



 A church for the new parish of La Fonseca

By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffinnicaragua1

The community of Nueva Guinea in the south of Nicaragua was established in the 1960s for resettled peasant farmers. Today it has a population of 140,000 people, drawn from many different regions of the country.

Originally only Baptists and other Protestants were intended to live here and in fact, every attempt was made to prevent Catholic families from settling. Catholics were also discriminated against when it came to the distribution of land. Today, there are at least 70 different Protestant ecclesial communities in Nueva Guinea, but the Catholic Church has also established herself here.

The unemployment rate is high and the children are often forced to work to help their family make ends meet, so the Church is helping many people in this town where youth crime is also on the rise. The Church opposes violence, helps women and children, working in the schools and endeavouring to counter the evil influences that are promoted by the mass media and spreading ever more widely within society.

At the very heart of all these activities, however, is the celebration of the Eucharist, emphasizes the parish priest, Father Mariano Martinez. His parish community makes a particular effort to prepare for religious feasts and liturgical celebrations, and great emphasis is also placed on Eucharistic adoration and on catechesis.

nicaragua2Catholic life is flourishing, and the young Catholic community of Nueva Guinea has already produced five religious vocations – three nuns and two priests. In addition, two young local men are preparing for ordination and another two have just entered the seminary.

The parish has in fact grown far too big now and has been divided. The newly created parish of La Fonseca now comprises 41 rural communities and almost 2,500 Catholic families with 165 catechists active within the parish, while 300 children and 450 young people are involved in various different parish groups.

Now the time has come to build a church for this new parish; it will be dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. ACN is planning to support the construction of this church with a contribution of $44,000.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.
To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.


Press Release Central African Republic: Further attacks on missionaries

30.09.2013 in ACN International, Central African Republic

By Eva Maria Kollman, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Montreal, September 30, 2013 – Following the attacks on a Carmelite priest a few days ago, the mission station of the Sacred Heart Fathers of Bétharram (Bétharramites) in Bouar in the north of the Central African Republic was the victim of a severe assault by Séléka rebels on Friday night. 

Père BeniaminoAccording to information from the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Italian missionary Father Beniamino Gusmeroli  and the locally-born deacon Brother Martial Mengue were threatened with Kalashnikovs,  tied up and gagged with adhesive tape.  The five armed men, who evidently came from Sudan, stole money, cameras, computers, documents and further items, and ransacked the rooms of the mission station. When they went away, the rebels took Brother Martial Mengue as a hostage but released him some hours later. In view of the further deterioration in the situation, Father Piero Trameri, the mission procurator of the Sacred Heart Fathers, demanded the “speedy and determined intervention of the international community”. The Bétharram Fathers devote themselves in particular to pastoral care, the people’s mission and education. Mission stations and ecclesiastical facilities are a favourite target for attack by the rebels.

The Italian Carmelite priest Father Aurelio Gazzera, who works in Bozoum, also hopes that the international community will react: “Central Africa is one of the subjects presently under discussion at the UNO General Assembly. We hope that it will bring concrete results, because the situation is continuing to deteriorate. As well as the fighting that took place in recent weeks in Bossangoa and drove 30,000 people to flight, last week the Séléka rebels killed two people and burned down 206 houses in the village of Herba, which lies 70 kilometres from the road to Bocaranga.”

In the past two weeks, clashes between the former Séléka and other armed groups in Ouham Pende Prefecture alone have resulted in more than 170,000 refugees. In the Central African Republic, according to the United Nations, 400,000 out of a population of nearly 5 million are in flight.

Press Release: 600 ACN benefactors, friends and staff make pilgrimage to Rome

30.09.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Father Werenfried van Straaten


ACN, Montreal, September 30, 2013 –  On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth year of Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the international Catholic pastoral charity has organized a pilgrimage to Rome. Six hundred benefactors, friends and staff from around the world will travel to Italy’s capital city from October 1st to the 5th.

On October 2nd, Pope Francis will welcome the participants in a General Audience. Meetings with Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and with Mons. Hon Tai-Fai Savio, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, are also planned.

Father Werenfried van Straaten was born on  January 17, 1913, in Mijdrecht near Amsterdam (Netherlands). In 1934 he entered the Flemish Norbertine abbey of Tongerlo (Belgium). At Christmas 1947, concerned about the suffering of the 14 million refugees in post-war Germany, including some six million Catholics, he wrote in his abbey’s magazine calling for help for the Germans expelled from the East. This set a wave of aid in motion that led to the founding of “Kirche in Not/Ostpriesterhilfe”. In 2011 Pope Benedict XVI granted the charity the status of a Pontifical Foundation.

Journey with ACN

27.09.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Bosnia Herzegovina, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.  This weekly newsletter will an opportunity for us to acquaint you with the needs of the Church and the projects we have realized together in countries around the world.

Today:  Bosnia


The Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King

Grateful for your help

 By ACN International and ACN Canada

 The Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King are a local congregation originating from Bosnia. Sister Ivanka Mihaljevic has been a member of this congregation, which has been engaged in pastoral, and social work, for 22 years now. She has been its Provincial Superior for Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina since 2009, which means that this Sister  Superior is responsible for 260 women in 13 different religious houses.

Despite all the upheavals in their society, many young people still feel called to the religious life, as Sister Ivanka can confirm. However, it is by no means easy to follow the call of God in our modern times. As Sister Ivanka explains, “Everything has become quicker and noisier. The new digital media are everywhere. Young people in particular are influenced by this. They are inwardly unsettled, and do not respond to the call God because they do not hear it. Religious vocations require silence; only then do they mature. That is why I tell young people: Do not be afraid to discover the will of God…”

bosnie2Fortunately, for quite a few, these words fall on fertile soil. Currently, six young women have joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King as candidates, while four others have become novices and are preparing to embrace the religious life – further, another 10 young women have already taken their first, temporary vows and are undergoing further training.

Later-on they will work in schools, hospitals or in a parish. ACN has already helped the congregation to carry out renovations and alterations on the novitiate, with a grant of $41,300. ACN is also providing assistance for the formation of these Franciscan sisters. Sister Ivanka has written to express their heartfelt thanks to all our benefactors!

Press release: Egypt – Coptic-Catholic bishops hope for new constitution for all Egyptians

18.09.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, egypt

Reinhard Backes, ACN International


Mgr Kyrillos William

Montreal, September 18th, 2013. It is with a sense of relief that the Coptic-Catholic bishops of Assiut and Minya, Bishop Kyrillos William and Bishop Botros Hanna, have reacted to the latest political development in Egypt. “Under the Muslim Brotherhood an unprecedented polarisation developed. The Christians were accused of being against Islam. Churches were attacked, police stations burnt down. Moderate Muslims stood up to protect us,” Bishop Kyrillos William stressed in a meeting with the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. “Now Egyptians are standing together. They are turning against extremism and terrorism,” Bishop Kyrillos William continued.

Bishop Botros Hanna of Minya also expressed his relief when talking to staff at “Aid to the Church in Need”: “We have the same problems and hopes as our Muslim neighbours. Together we can find solutions. It is absolutely essential that we respect one another and keep talking.” Bishop Hanna went on to explain: “There is no war between the religions in my country, but there is a conflict between extremists and the Egyptian people.”


Mgr Botros Fahim Awad Hanna

Bishop Hanna expressed his great concern at the enormous social differences in Egypt and the large number of people who were illiterate; both factors played into the hands of the extremists. Bishop Hanna said: “Egypt needs education, schools, respect for human rights and the rights of minorities.”

Bishop Kyrillos William and Bishop Botros Hanna declared their optimism that a new constitution would take account of the interest of all Egyptians. According to the Bishops, representatives of the respected Islamic al-Azhar University in Cairo and the Christian Churches were involved in its formulation. The aim was a separation of religion and state. Around 85 per cent of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims and 10 to 15 per cent Christians. The number of Catholics is approximately 200,000.

National Pilgrimage of ACN Portugal to Fátima evokes Father Werenfried van Straaten

17.09.2013 in ACN International, ACN Portugal

The 4th National Pilgrimage of ACN Portugal to Fátima has gathered around 100 friends and benefactors of the Charity who wished to remember its founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten.

Fátima_AIS_2[1]The year of 1967 was especially celebrated by the Sanctuary of Fátima as it was the 50th anniversary of the apparitions. The visit of Pope VI to preside over the celebratory pilgrimage of May 13 foresaw a year rich in celebration, in honour of the Mother of God.

Last Saturday, September 14, the National Office renewed its Consecration to the Work to Our Lady of Fátima using Father Werenfried’s own words, which he spoke on the precise day of September 14th, in the now distant year of 1967.

ACN Portugal’s National Pilgrimage was a very special one as this year it also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of  ACN’s founder.

As usual, ACN Portugal’s friends and benefactors participated in a Mass, this time in the new Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, in thanksgiving for Father Werenfried, for all the good that has been done through ACN, and for the benefactors and collaborators throughout these 66 years.

During the day, Father Werenfried van Straaten was remembered through the presentation of 100 slides about his life and work, and a conference by Paulo Aido, author of the book “The Secret of Sister Lúcia,” supported by ACN Portugal, which describes the life and thoughts of the last seer of Fátima.

The Consecration of the Work appears as a Profession of Faith under the divine protection of  Our Lady of Fátima, which means to put ourselves under her protective mantle, as a refuge, as Our Lady told the three little shepherds – “you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort; Do not lose heart; My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.

The Consecration also means to see the message of Fátima as the confirming principle of our pastoral Institution, because the message of Fátima announces the suffering and persecution of Christians by the simple act of saying “Yes, to Christ!”

May this pastoral work continue under the protection of the Virgin Mary, and in whom we take refuge.


Press relerase – Central African Republic – Italian missionary is threatened and beaten

17.09.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Central African Republic

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN CanadaCentrafrique - 1

Montreal, September 17th, 2013 – Yesterday, the Italian Carmelite priest Aurelio Gazzera was threatened with a pistol and struck in the face by members of the Séléka rebel alliance, the missionary reports to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The Carmelite priest, who has been working in the Central African Republic for twenty years, had visited a rebel base in order to obtain the release of prisoners and to protest against violent assaults, torture and murders. Already on his arrival at the base, rebels threatened to kill him, Gazzera reports.

“When I explained why I had come, the commander answered that they were soldiers and could do what they liked. At that moment, another of the leaders came into the room and screamed that he would kill me. I had no right to come and plead for the prisoners, he shouted.  He threatened me with a pistol and hit me in the face,” the missionary reports.

Although the Séléka rebel alliance was officially disbanded last Friday (13.09) by President Djotodia, who came to power in a coup last March, there are still some 25,000 Séléka rebels in the country. “How long is this hell going to continue? No concrete steps are being taken that could lead to the rebels laying down their arms,” the missionary explains.  Just a few days ago, heavy fighting broke out again in the north of the country, and in recent months there have been repeated attacks on churches, ecclesiastical institutions, priests and religious sisters.

Press Release: Syria

16.09.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Syria, Uncategorized

“Leave us alone!”

By John Pontifex, ACN UK

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Montreal, September 16th, 2013 – A Syrian prelate – ordained a bishop only last month – has spoken of his dismay at the country’s mass exodus of Christians but is convinced that the future of one of the world’s oldest Church communities is assured.

SYRIEMelkite Greek Catholic Bishop Nicolas Antiba of Bosra and Hauran described how his faithful in southern Syria were fleeing in the hundreds to the area around his bishop’s house in Khabab following attacks which included the destruction of reportedly one of the country’s oldest churches dating back to the 6th century.

Referring to the attack on the 542 AD St Elias’ Church, in Izraa, he said the exodus of Christians from Syria risked becoming as bad as in Iraq where most faithful left their homes.Bishop Antiba stressed the urgent need for help both for displaced people arriving in Khabab and elsewhere, including food and shelter – a problem which will become more acute as the weather worsens.

In comments echoing those last month by Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III, who ordained him bishop on 25th August 2013, the 67-year-old said the crisis is being exacerbated by the influx of fighters and weapons from abroad, which for Bishop Antiba are like “a cancer” threatening to destroy the country. And Bishop Antiba went on to reiterate calls for an end to plans for foreign military intervention in Syria, saying that his message to President Barack Obama is “leave us alone.”

“Arms are like a cancer”

Amid reports that up to a third of the country’s Christian population is now internally displaced or living as refugees abroad, Bishop Antiba said: “I believe – I know – that persecution will not destroy the Church. The blood of the martyrs gives new life to the Church. I have the hope that we will continue to live here as Christians. Yes, we will be fewer in number – just look what happened in Iraq – but I don’t think the country will be left without Christians,” said the bishop speaking after attacks earlier this month on the ancient Christian town of Maloula, which was attacked and occupied by Jihadi groups.

Christians fleeing the town spoke of direct attacks on Christians and reports emerged that the fighters wanted “victory over the infidel.” Earlier, Patriarch Gregorios told ACN that 450,000 Christians in Syria – nearly a third of the total – had fled their homes.

Bishop Antiba said: “Christians are a peaceful people. They do not fight, especially in Syria where we have been living with tranquillity without any problems. We are the people who have no way to fight. Instead we are a peaceful people who are the first ones who are attacked. Christians have suffered very greatly. We are still suffering. It is not easy.”

The archbishop reiterated calls for the US and its allies to abandon options favouring a military strike. “I hope that [the US and its allies] will leave us alone. If arms continue to come into the country, the situation will get worse. It is not Syrians who are fighting Syrians – those involved in the fighting are non-Syrians. Instead of bringing arms into our country, bring peace. Arms are like a cancer – a foreign body that threatens to destroy us.”

Calling on the US to keep out of Syrian politics, he said: “I would say to President Obama, you always talk about peace… please leave us alone and put these ideas of peace into practice.

“You have your own idea of democracy and it is beautiful but it is not necessarily our idea of democracy; let us work out our own idea of democracy.”

M.A.J. :  September 16, 2013