ACN International


Iceland – Translation of the Missal into Icelandic

31.07.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, CONSTRUCTION, Iceland, Pastoral work, Year of the Faith

ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada


40 years ago work first begun on preparing a Missal in the Icelandic language. Now, in the Year of Faith, the printing of this book has finally become possible, thanks to ACN’s financial support. In fact, Bishop Pierre Bürcher has already personally handed Pope Francis a copy.

There are only 10,000 or so Catholics collectively living on the island of Iceland and they account for just 3.3% of the total population. The good news, however, is that the number of Catholics has tripled within the last 10 years  – now 10 times as many baptisms as burials and each year and somewhere between 5 and 20 adults are baptized during the Easter Vigil. The number of Catholics is also increasing as a result of immigration, mostly arriving from Poland and the Philippines.

Bishop Pierre, who comes originally from Switzerland, remarks: “Previously, when I was still living in Switzerland, I myself did not think that the Catholic Church in Iceland needed any help. But that was in fact a mistake. In reality we cannot survive as Church without help from abroad. We are extremely grateful to ACN.”

Above all, the Church in Iceland needs outside help because there are too few Catholics in the country and because they are so thinly scattered across the island. Many of the practicing Catholics tend to be immigrants who have such little money themselves leaving them little to contribute, while the State makes only a symbolic contribution to the Church.

Syria – Jesuit priest abducted by extremists

31.07.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Persecution of Christians, Syria

By ACN Portugal

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada


According to Reuters, the news spread that the priest Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit known for his opposition to the Assad regime, has been abducted by a radical group that calls itself  the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” which is constituted by militants linked to al Qaeda in Iraq.


The priest, 58, was kidnapped while walking the city streets of Raqqa, a city under the control of rebel forces. The Jesuit, Paolo Dall’Oglio, who has always engaged in dialogue between Christians and Muslims, had been expelled from the country where he lived for nearly three decades, precisely because of his advocacy of dialogue between religions.


In the eighties, he was responsible for restoring the Syrian Catholic monastery of Mar Musa (Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian), in the desert north of Damascus, and the benefactors of ACN supported the reconstruction of the Monastery of the Community of St. Simeon Stylites. Its then superior, Father François Maurad,  was assassinated in June, after an attack by an armed jihadist group known as al-Jabat nustra.

Madagascar – Gratitude for a village chapel and lodging for a visiting priest

30.07.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, CONSTRUCTION, Madagascar

ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada


The parish of Antsohihy, in north-west Madagascar, lies in a region of primary evangelization where the people are only now coming to embrace Christianity. Around 12,000 people in this area are already Catholic; however, most of the population still adheres to traditional pagan African religions. Within the territory of this vast parish there are 26 mission stations with their own simple chapels – in many cases they are no more than straw huts. An underdeveloped region, with no electricity, telephone or postal services, many of the villages lie in the dense rainforest, and only 40% of the children actually go to school.


Most of the Faith proclamation work is provided by lay-catechists who prepare the people for the sacraments of Baptism, Confession, First Holy Communion, and Matrimony. Clearly, it is impossible for the local priest to be in all these villages at once, so each village has its own catechist to give instruction in the Faith and also to call together the people for a time of prayer.


MADAGASCAR-2The village of Andrafia, with its 1,400 inhabitants, is no exception. It also has its own catechist, but only the priest can actually administer the sacraments, and therefore, twice a month, a priest comes to visit the villagers. Until recently, Holy Mass was celebrated in a hut belonging to one of the village families, but now, thanks to our generous benefactors and a grant from ACN of $57,000, a more permanent chapel has been built recently in Andrafia, as well as a small lodging for the visiting priest who comes from afar. He will now have somewhere to sleep for the night.


Thank you to all


Father Jean Bosco, the diocesan bursar for the diocese of Ambanja, has written to us to thank all our benefactors for helping to make possible the building of this new simple chapel, a much anticipated one for all the Catholic faithful of the region. “I send my greetings, and thank you all, on behalf of all the Christians in the region who helped so enthusiastically with the building of “their” church. Everybody contributed something towards the building of the chapel, so that now the Catholic faithful can gather on Sundays to pray, sing, receive instruction, hear the Word of God and gather round the Table of the Lord to receive the Bread of Life. The young people carried sand and stones, the women collected water and the children spent their playtime watching,” he writes, and concludes: “I assure you of my grateful prayers and those of all the Christians in Andrafia and in our entire diocese.”


ACN interviews His Eminence Cardinal Schöenborn about the YOUCAT giveaway at WYD in Rio

30.07.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, YOUCAT

CARDINALACN:  Your Eminence what are your thoughts on WYD Rio?

Schönborn: It is my second time in Brazil. The first time I was here in 1996, and I see a country that is full of live, a Church that is a kind of explosion of vitality. I see so many new communities growing in Brazil. I hear, and I see that there are many challenges, many social challenges but I have the impression that the Christians and specially the Catholic Church in this country is capable with the help of God and with the help of Pope Francis and the inspiration of Pope Francis to bring to Brazil a real new evangelization. I give you just one example: The first day I was here, I went to one of the big churches here in Rio and to my joy and amazement, I saw so many young people in deep prayer, really in deep prayer. And I had the impression that for them, prayer is so naturally a part of their life, it is so integrated in their lives that it makes me very hopeful for this country. Thus, I can only bless the Lord for all the good that is growing in this country and especially I am grateful for all the work of Aid to the Church In Need which is such a magnificent work.

ACN: Your Eminence, you just visited our stand where the YOUCAT is being promoted.Can you tell  more about its origin and what you think about its promotion on WYD Rio 2013?


Youcat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Schönborn: YOUCAT is a kind of miracle. It happened, it just happened. Therewere some people who had the courage to try to produce, starting with the big Catechism of the Church and with the Compendium of the Catholic Church, to start a real catechism for young people. And as the Holy Father Pope Benedict said in his preface, at the beginning he had himself great doubts about the possibility to produce the catechism of the Catholic Church, the big one. But then, he saw the miracle that this catechism came to life, and he said, it is kind of a similar miracle that has happened for the YOUCAT. His support was very very important from the very beginning. He was encouraging the project. And through his encouragement, many obstacles could be overcome, because there were many obstacles. I think with the blessing of Pope Benedict, this book has become an immense success worldwide: 27 translations, probably in the meantime even more, all around the world, and such an encouragement was what the blessed Pope John Paul always dreamed of: The new evangelization. With the young, for the young and through the young. The YOUCAT is simply a blessing.

ACN: Your eminence, 1.5 million copies of the YOUCAT were distributed for free by Aid to the Church in Need to the Brazilian young people. What do you think about this initiative?

Schönborn: First I would say that Pope Benedict insisted so much that the YOUCAT be given to all the young people in Madrid, and it was a gift from Aid to the Church in Need to Pope Benedict to make it possible through this big donation in 2011. It was possible to hand over to 1 million young people the YOUCAT in main languages, and now, you have surpassed by far the gift of Pope Benedict from Pope Benedict in Madrid, again thanks to Aid to the Church in Need in Brazil. I think that Fr. Werenfried, probably, in heaven, is applauding the donations from so many persons were used for this purpose. He insisted on catechesis which was a core need of his work. I think he would be in great joy and happiness, and he is, actually, very happy to see the success of YOUCAT and not only in Brazil.

Uganda – Renovation of the seminary in Alokolum

29.07.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Pastoral aid, Reconstruction, SEMINARIANS, Uganda

by ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

At present, in the village of Alokolum, northern Uganda,  220 young men from various different dioceses of the country are training for the priesthood at the major seminary . This is good news of course, but it also presents the seminary with a major challenge,for now it is bursting at the seams. Therefore, there is an urgent need to renovate one of the seminary buildings housing the seminarians, to keep it habitable given the already very limited space available.

During the civil strife in Uganda, which lasted from 1988 until 2007, the seminary in Alokolum shared directly in the sufferings of so many of its people. During the war, and indeed for some time afterwards,  a refugee camp actually stood within the grounds of the seminary. As part of their studies, the seminarians are given special training in supporting and helping the traumatized population. Many people were forced to watch as their sisters, mothers, daughters or wives were raped and others murdered. Many mothers saw their children abducted and dragged off into the bush.

Significant trauma

The Church was not spared this violence either. For example, on May 11,  2003,  rebels of the notorious “Lord’s Resistance Army” overran the minor seminary in the diocese of Gulu and abducted 41 of its seminarians. The young men were taken off into the bush and forced to train as child soldiers. Twelve remain missing to this day. The people need help now to rebuild their lives. “Almost an entire generation has either been born in or grown up in the refugee camps. The whole culture of work has been destroyed, since each day the people simply took their food rations and now no longer know how to earn their own living,” explains Father Cosmas Alule, the rector of the seminary.

OUGANDAThis is where the Church has stepped in and is providing a great deal of support and counselling to people. It is true that the government is helping to some extent by providing some building materials and seed for people who are returning to their villages, but of course, this does not suffice. “It is a matter of helping the people to re-establish their lives in a psychological, cultural and spiritual sense as well,” the rector emphasizes. A number of priests were themselves abducted, imprisoned, wounded and in some cases even killed during the war.

One priest had his hands shot through with bullets as he was driving on his way to a church. Many seminarians from the current group have also suffered trauma. This presents a real challenge for the instructors. These spiritual directors address these problems intensively. “Yet at the same time, it is a good thing that these future priests have also shared the experiences of the people, for we need priests who know what suffering is. If someone has been through these painful experiences and still has the capacity not to be broken by them, then he can help others much better,” the rector concludes.

ACN is hoping to help with a grant of $27,000  for the renovation of the residential wing, to ensure the seminary will not be forced to turn away any of these young men who are willing to place themselves in God’s service, as good shepherds to their people.

Central African Republic “I can’t remain silent when people are being killed like flies.”

24.07.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Central Africa, Persecution of Christians

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada


CENTRAFRIQUE-1Montreal, July 24th, 2013 – In his sermon last Sunday, 21 July, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Bangui the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga, had clear words to say. “I can’t remain silent while the sons of this country are the victims of the worst kind of barbarism. I can’t remain silent while Central Africans are being tortured and killed, squashed like flies. I can’t remain silent while our mothers and sisters are being raped. I can’t remain silent while the dignity of the Central African is being trampled underfoot, while innocent people are being robbed, while the just and well-earned fruit of our country is being destroyed and looted as though we were in a house of cards. I can’t remain silent when impunity reigns and a dictatorship of arms is being set up.”


At the same time he forgave those who saw him as a “political opponent” or “wrongly” ascribed to him “political ambitions and power aspirations.” He declared: “I am a shepherd, not a political fighter. I dare to hope that one or other person will hear in my voice the Central African people’s cry of suffering.”


The Holy Mass was being held on the occasion of the first anniversary of his Episcopal consecration. On June 26 of this year Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga received the pallium from Pope Francis together with 33 other Archbishops from throughout the world. Last Sunday was celebrated in the capital of the Central African Republic as “Action of Mercy”.  At the same time services were held in many countries for peace in the Central African Republic.


This international day of prayer had been initiated by the order of Carmelites in Italy, which maintains five missions in the Central African Republic. The international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” had also invited the faithful throughout the world to pray on this day for the people of this country as it descended into violence and chaos.



Iceland – ten baptisms for every funeral

18.07.2013 in ACN International, Iceland, Uncategorized

With just 10,000 faithful, the Catholic Church in Iceland is very small, yet it is developing very dynamically. Bishop Pierre Bürcher of Reykjavik spoke recently to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about life in this scattered Catholic community. His diocese covers an area of over 100,000 km² (40,000 square miles).

by Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Hearing the command of Jesus to “put out into the deep”, Pierre Bürcher had not previously imagined that he would be asked to fulfil these words quite so literally. For 13 years he had been auxiliary bishop of Lausanne in Switzerland when, in October 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Bishop of Reykjavik. “I had never been to Iceland before that,” confesses the 67-year-old Swiss prelate with a smile. “It was a great surprise. God really did send me out across the deep ocean!”

To him, Iceland is a land of contrasts. And not simply because there are volcanoes smouldering beneath the ice or because there are only four hours of daylight in winter and almost no night in summer. For the Catholic Church in Iceland is equally varied and full of contrasts. “We have many different nationalities; it is truly a universal Church,” says Bishop Bürcher. Although Catholics number just 10,000 faithful and account for a little over 3% of the total population of 320,000 or so, the Church here is remarkably dynamic. The number of Catholics has trebled in the last 10 years, and the percentage of Catholics in the total population is the highest in any of the Nordic countries. There are 10 baptisms for every funeral, and every year at the Easter Vigil there are somewhere between five and 20 adult baptisms. The rising number of Catholics is also due in part to the number of immigrants, above all from Poland and the Philippines.

And yet life in the thinly scattered Catholic community is not easy. There are just 17 priests, and, apart from one Icelander, all of them are from abroad. The Catholics are widely scattered, and in many regions the religious instruction for the handful of Catholic children has to be supplied via the Internet. When Bishop Pierre administers the sacrament of Confirmation, he often has to travel by plane, given the long distances and the often dangerous road conditions. “The roads are no motorways, and above all in winter it is dangerous on account of the ice. But even in summer there is often a powerful gale blowing. We have many accidents as a result of lightweight vehicles being blown off the road.”

Iceland was particularly hard hit by the world economic crisis. Formerly the island was one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and there was no unemployment. Today things are different. People who just a few years ago bought big houses and expensive cars are now unable to pay off their loans or mortgages and are deeply in debt. “A few years ago, when the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity wanted to set up a soup kitchen in Reykjavik, the authorities responded that such an establishment was unnecessary since there were no poor. Nonetheless, the sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta went ahead and rented a small place to which around 20 people used to come for breakfast. Now, following the economic crisis, there are up to 70 people each day who take advantage of the offer. There are many volunteers, and it is a wonderful apostolate and testimony to the Faith”, says the bishop. He continues: “Experience has shown that love is contagious. A local baker, who in the past had given yesterday’s bread to a local farmer for his cattle, now says, ‘I can no longer go on giving the bread to the animals’, and gives it to the sisters instead.”

Despite all the problems that have resulted from the economic crisis, the bishop does see a number of positive developments. “Many people are turning back to the true values”, he says. “Simplicity, the family, contact with nature – all these things are becoming more important once again.”

The Catholic Church in Iceland needs support. That is why the international Catholic pastoral charity ACN has been helping, for example with the publication of the Missal in Icelandic. This year Bishop Pierre personally handed a copy to Pope Francis. ACN also helped for the publication of the Child’s Bible God Speaks to His Children and the Little Catechism I Believe in the Icelandic language. In addition to this, ACN has helped some priests and religious sisters to obtain vehicles for pastoral work and has supported building extension work on a convent for sisters.

Bishop Bürcher concludes: “I myself, when I was still living in Switzerland, did not think that the Catholic Church in Iceland needed any help. But that was a mistake. In reality we could not survive as Church without help from abroad. We are most grateful to ACN.”

Islande 1

South Sudan suffers rebel attacks: “Military presence not a solution”

18.07.2013 in ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Sudan, Uncategorized

By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin,  ACN Canada

Politicians should do more to start a peace dialogue, said Edward Hiiboro Kussala, Bishop of the South Sudanese diocese of Tambura-Yambio, when speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN). In his diocese, which is located in the border region, the population is forced to suffer attacks from rebels based in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

“They abduct children, burn down houses and kill people. Many people are fleeing into the towns. In my diocese there are many internal refugees,” Kussala reported.

The LRA, which was established in Uganda in1987 under the leadership of Joseph Kony and has since largely been driven out of Uganda, operates today primarily in the border areas of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Copyright ACN/AED

Copyright ACN/AED

To improve the security situation in the region soldiers of the Ugandan and South Sudanese armies, the American contingent and the African Union Force had been stationed there, Kussala said. “This military presence is not a solution. What’s more, the international community lacks the will to arrest the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony,” he complained.

 Lobbying for Peace

“The politicians believe in the military, but all these efforts have been to no avail,” Kussala continued. The Church had an important role to play in the peace process because it was educating people in peace and reconciliation and was a “lobby” for peace. It often acted through diplomatic channels to further the cause of peace, the Bishop reported.

The majority of  South Sudan’s population adhered primarily to Christian and animist religions before its  independence from the mainly Islamic northern part of the country on 9 July, 2011. Between 1983 and 2005 a bloody civil war raged, claiming more than 2 million human lives and leaving many millions of people homeless.

Finding Jesus in the cake shop

18.07.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, CONSECRATED LIFE, India

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

Christine Kapadia comes from Gujarat in western India. Just like almost 90 per cent of the 60 million inhabitants of this state, she grew up as a Hindu, in a quite common Indian family. But what was rather unusual, was the lively interest she showed as a child in God.

“When my father took me to school on his scooter I often turned to God, a God I didn’t know, not even his name, and to whom I told absolutely everything that moved me as a child,” recounted Christine.

As a teenager, she sought God intensively. She looked into other religions. In retrospect, the now 34 year old says that as a young Hindu woman she knew little about Christianity at first (which is hardly surprising given in the Hindu-dominated state of Gujarat only nine per cent of the population are Muslims and the number of Christians is less than one per cent). So how did Christine’s parents react to their daughter’s great religious interest and her visits to places of worship of other faiths? “It didn’t worry them. They just let me get on with it,” Christine recalls.

Her discovery of Christianity came more or less by chance. “When I was 15, I got to know Jesus in a cake shop,” she explained, and laughed. While making her regular purchases she became engaged in conversation with a saleswoman who was only a few years older than she and who was a Catholic Christian. The young Hindu woman was fascinated with what she learnt about Jesus Christ. Christine asked the saleswoman to take her to church. It was the start of a friendship and her gradual rapprochement with Christianity. Christine regularly took part in prayer meetings. When she was 17 she asked to be baptized, but her wish encountered resistance. Her parents rejected a conversion outright. “As long as I only went to church, they had no objection. But as soon as I wanted to get baptized there was suddenly a cold war at home,” Christine said.

Her Catholic friends advised her to be patient: they said Christine should get baptized at the earliest when she reached the age of majority. Despite all the resistance, Christine stuck to what she wanted. In 2002 she was at last able to be baptized. Finally her parents respected her wishes. They had recognized that the new faith did not mean their daughter would move away from her home. On the contrary – Christine, who felt more and more drawn to a life in a religious order, took care of her parents and she even gave up her job in a bank to look after her mother when she developed cancer. A week before her death in 201, her mother was baptized as well.

The tensions between father and daughter didn’t totally subside, especially since she expressed her ardent wish to become a Carmelite nun. But once again Christine’s patience paid off: she has now belonged to a community of a total of ten, discalced Carmelites (OCD), for the last six months.

The Carmel, supported by Aid to the Church in Need, is located in Vadodara (Baroda), the third largest town in Gujarat. Christine Kapadia says “My father has long modified his negative attitude. When I entered the Carmel I was accompanied by 21 members of my family… all Hindus.”



Central African Republic: ACN invites all to an International Day of Prayer for Peace in the Central African Republic on 21 July

17.07.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Central Africa, Prayer

In view of the dramatic situation in the Central African Republic, the Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” is issuing an invitation to take part in an international Day of Prayer for Peace. The initiative came from the Discalced Carmelites in the Ligurian province of Italy, who have five missions in the Central African Republic. It is intended that religious communities and “all believers of good will” in the world take part.


20130716_012On Sunday 21, July Holy Mass will be celebrated for this cause in many churches in Italy, Central Africa and numerous other countries in communion with the mission in the Central African Republic.”The aim is to ask God to grant peace in the Central African Republic, where the Catholic Church suffers from the desecration of places of worship, robbery and looting in the parishes, missions, schools and health centres,”, as Father Davide Sollami explained to “Aid to the Church in Need”. For several months now a veritable “prayer marathon” had already been in progress in the Carmelite community of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, he added.


Father Sollami reported: “The missionaries living in the Central African Republic have learned that the population loves them. Nobody has betrayed the members of the religious communities to the rebels. Since the war the churches have been getting steadily fuller and more and more people are coming to pray. If we all act together our prayer will rise to God like a chorus and there will be between us a day of community which we who work for His Peace wish to be.”


20130716_006Christine du Coudray, the Head of the Africa Section of “Aid to the Church in Need”, explained: “When politicians seem to be deaf to all appeals to reason, we Christians believe that our distress and our cry will be heard by the Virgin Mary and her Son. We are taking part in this Day of Prayer for the Central African Republic with infinite trust and we invite everyone to join us. Deus semper maior (God is always greater)!”


Christine Coudray went on to say that, since the Séléka rebels seized power on 24 March of this year, the Central African Republic had descended further and further into chaos. Church institutions in particular had had to suffer from lootings and attacks by the rebels. There had repeatedly been reports from Church circles that a growing islamization of the country was evident.


“Aid to the Church in Need” recently granted the Catholic Church in the Central African Republic further emergency aid to the tune of $218,438.00.