Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Day 5

23.01.2015 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Prayer

Day 5: Annunciation 

Prayer: God, spring of the Living water, help us to understand that the more we join together the pieces of our ropes, the more deeply our buckets reach into your divine waters! Awaken us to the truth that the gifts of the other are an expression of your unfathomable mystery. And make us sit at the well together to drink from your water which gathers us in unity and peace. We ask this in the name of your son Jesus Christ, who asked the Samaritan woman to give him water for his thirst. Amen.


© Aid to the Church in Need – Father Artur Karbowski – on the Rio Negro – Amazonas

Commentary (John 4:11): Jesus is thirsty and, as the Samaritan woman points out, he has no bucket to draw water. He needs her help: everybody needs help! Many Christians believe that they alone have all the answers and they need no help from anyone else. We need the help of our Christian brothers and sisters to reach the depths of the well of the divine. A common point in our faith, regardless of the church to which we belong, is that God is mystery beyond our comprehension. The more we grow in unity, the deeper we delve into the well of the divine.


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Day 4

22.01.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Prayer

Day 4: Renunciation 

Prayer : Loving God, help us to learn from Jesus and the Samaritan that the encounter with the other opens for us new horizons of grace. Help us to break through our limits and embrace new challenges. Help us to go beyond fear in following the call of your Son. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.



Commentary (John 4:28): The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman shows that dialogue with the different, the stranger, the unfamiliar, can be life-giving. They broke with conventional patterns of behaviour and they showed us that it is possible to build new relationships. The Samaritan woman leaves her water jar behind her, meaning that she could go further in her life; she was not confined to the role society imposed on her. “Breaking forth” is a necessity for those who desire to grow stronger and wiser in their faith. It is difficult for us to find value, to recognize as good, or even holy, that which is unknown to us and that which belongs to another. However, this is a necessary step towards the visible unity we seek.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Day 3

21.01.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Prayer

 Day 3: Denunciation II

Prayer (Attributed to Gregory of Nazianzus): O you who are beyond all things, how could we call you by any other name? What song could be sung for you? No word can express you. What Spirit can perceive you? No intelligence can comprehend you. You alone are inexpressible; all that is said has come from you. You alone are unknowable; all that is thought has come from you. All creatures proclaim you, those who speak and those who are dumb. Every one desires you, everyone sighs and aspires after you. All that exists prays to you, and every being that can contemplate your universe raises to you a silent hymn. Have pity on us, you who are beyond all things. How could we call you by any other name? Amen.




Jesus asks the Samaritan woman about her husband (John 4:17) and their dialogue shifts from the water to the woman’s situation. Jesus knows she has had five husbands and that the man she has now is not her husband. However, he does not insist on a moral interpretation of her answer and seems to want to lead her beyond. As a result, the woman’s attitude towards Jesus changes. Thus the obstacles of cultural and religious differences fade and give space to something much more important: an encounter in trust. Jesus’ behaviour raises questions that challenge the attitudes that denigrate and marginalize women; and questions about the differences which we allow to stand in the way of the unity we seek and for which we pray.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Day 2

20.01.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Prayer

Day 2: Denunciation I


© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

PrayerGracious God, often your Church is led to choose the logic of competition. Forgive our sin of presumption. We are weary from this need to be first. Allow us to rest at the well. Refresh us with the water of unity drawn from our common prayer. May your Spirit who hovered over the waters of chaos bring unity from our diversity. Amen.

The Pharisees had begun to spread the word that Jesus baptized more disciples than John. When “tired of the journey, Jesus sat down facing the well” (John 4:6), he might also be tired of these rumours. As a Samaritan woman comes to fetch water, she and Jesus start a dialogue about the place of worship and Jesus states that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him” (John 4: 21- 24). It still happens that competition marks the relations within the Church. True worshipers do not allow the logic of competition infect faith. We need “wells” to rest and let go of disputes, competition and violence, a place where true worshipers join in a common search for unity.

Mass in the Latin Cathedral of Istanbul with Pope Francis

02.12.2014 in ACN International, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Pope Francis, Turkey


“This is the true face of the Universal Church that we see here – one of different languages and peoples.”

By Sébastien de Courtois, ACN International – Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada  

A crowd of Catholics has been waiting for fifteen hours for Pope Francis on the square in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. “We are going to sing for the Pope, for the Christians and for peace in the Middle East,” says Maria, a young Chaldean Catholic who is singing in the choir. There are about 20 young girls like her, from various different backgrounds, who are due to take part in this exceptional liturgy. The cathedral is full. “We can barely fit in more than 1200 people… We would love to have welcomed far more than that, but it is not possible,” says Monsignor Louis Pelâtre, the Catholic Bishop of Istanbul.

Outside, on the pavement, the Turkish TV cameras are filming the arrival of the Holy Father. The interior courtyard is packed. As soon as he arrives, cries of “Viva el papa!” ring out from the crowd. There is a small delegation from Colombia, Argentina and the Philippines. The Pope goes up to each one of them as soon as he can, to shake their hands and smile at people. A man approaches him with a cage containing some doves and offers them to Francis, who takes them and immediately lets them fly loose in the grey sky of Istanbul, as a sign of peace.

A historic event

Inside the church the people are standing on their benches to welcome him. On the upper balcony the journalists of the entire world are also present, among them many Italians who have travelled on the Holy Father’s airplanes. The Turkish security services outside, and the Vatican security staff inside, are on high alert. There must not be any mistakes now. The Mass begins. The Pope is surrounded by several prelates of the Eastern Church, among them the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Younan, who will co-celebrate with him. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is also present, as are the representatives of the Armenian Churches both Gregorian and Catholic, the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yusuf Çetin and the vicar of the Chaldeans of Turkey, François Yakan.

Nathalie Ritzmann Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need

Nathalie Ritzmann
Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need

More than 50 priests, representing the dioceses of Turkey and elsewhere, are also present. The Pope takes a moment for each one. “We are very happy to see him like this. He brings us joy and comfort,” says a Levantine woman from Izmir, the ancient city of Smyrna, which is today a large city on the Aegean. Turkish Catholics intone the first hymns, in Turkish. This is followed by singing and words from the choir of the cathedral in French, Spanish, English and, of course, Italian. “I arrived here yesterday from Mardin to be part of this historic moment,” says one young woman, Febronia. “ We know that it is a historic moment. Above all in the present context of the violence being committed against the Christians of the Middle East.”

In fact, several delegations of refugees from Syria and Iraq have been welcomed by the Holy Father. He is profoundly concerned with the question of the displaced, and about the future of the Christians in the Middle East. On several occasions during the Mass prayers are offered for this intention, above all during his homily.

A renewal of the promise of unity

If, in exceptional circumstances such as these, Latin once again becomes the common language of the Church, nonetheless Armenian, Arabic and Syriac chants are also sung. At the moment of Communion an African choir starts to sing – words of deep emotion in honour of Jesus:  Jesus Christ, you are the bread, the bread of life of Christians, to be received in communion today...

For a couple of hours politics are put aside and perhaps even forgotten. Christians of every background have come together as a family “to be happy ,” as one Turkish man puts it, a man of 50 and a convert to Christianity. “This is the true face of the Universal Church that we see here, one of different languages and people.” He does not manage to finish his words, so deeply is he moved.

The moment comes for the final blessing; the people stand, the flashlights crackle. Everybody gets out his mobile phone in order to immortalize this extraordinary moment of Grace. Once again, indefatigable, the Pope takes the time to greet the people during the recessional. He smiles, shakes hands whenever he can and moves slowly towards the exit…

Tomorrow morning he will take part in the Orthodox Liturgy for the feast of Saint Andrew in the Greek Orthodox church of the Phanar, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Since this church is still smaller, there will be some disappointed people. But this meeting between the two representatives of Sister Churches will be a renewal of the promise of unity.

Turkey – 100 projects in the last 20 years

02.12.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Turkey

Even though Turkey´s Christian population is barely 0,3%, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported 100 projects in Turkey in the last twenty years

ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin

A significant amount of ACN´s help has gone towards Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the Eastern part of the country. Since 2010 ACN donated a total of $182,600 to Iraqi refugees, mainly via the Chaldean Church and the Salesian Fathers in Istanbul. The Salesians look after families and are particularly concerned with ensuring that the children continue to receive a schooled education.

ACN has also helped Syrian refugees in Eastern Turkey, since the crisis in Syria began. From 2013  to 2014 ACN has donated a total of  $66,000 towards their needs.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Other types of help given Turkey include the support of the Christian TV studio “SAT 7”, and the printing of the book by the German Jesuit and Islam expert, W. Troll S.J.  “Müslümanlar soruyor” “(Muslims Ask, Christians Answer”) – an inter-religious dialogue based on answering the questions on the Christian faith most frequently asked by Muslims. ACN also supported the installation of an internet homepage “Answers to Islam,”covering the same topic as the book.

Other examples of  ACN publication projects are the translation and printing of 3,000 copies of ACN´s Little Catechism, “I Believe” in Turkish and help with the  printing  of the Catechism for children in the Turkish language, entrusted to the Pauline Sisters.

Repairing church property, mainly churches and convents, has been an important part of our help both in the past and today.  Among these projects are several construction projects for the convent of the Daughters of Charity in Istanbul.  Another example is the restoration of the historical church -Santa Maria Kilisesi, Izmir, Smyrna (near Turkey´s Aegean coast) – one of the oldest churches to have withstood the destruction, and today cared for by Franciscan friars.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Finally, ACN supports the work of different female congregations in various ways. One such example was provide water borehole and an elevator for the Little Sisters of the Poor, Istanbul (Fransiz Fakirhanesi) whose presence in Turkey goes back 120 years and who today run a home for the elderly and have also cared for refugees.

And with this, we invite you to help us… to help our brothers and sisters who will be much in need of your help.

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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.

The situation of African Catholic Migrants in Turkey

01.12.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Turkey

“God brought me to Turkey to be on His Team!”

By Maria Lozano, ACN International

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

“I used to play football in a club in Nigeria. My manager told me that I was good and he gave me hope to find a team in Europe. He charged me $4000 for the process of playing in a club in Izmir, in Turkey.”This is how Pascal starts telling his story. However, right after landing in the Turkish land, he received a call from the manager: the contract had been canceled. With  a  threat of not coming back to Nigeria to ask for his money, because in this case he would make his life impossible to live, he recommended him to go to Istanbul. Pascal had never heard about Istanbul. He said to him, “this is a big city and you will find help.” It happened like this; Pascal found a Turkish citizen in the station who helped him to contact a soccer club. “God put this in my path, I am sure of it. I trained myself in that club but finally all this came to nothing,” says the player.

The young Nigerian has been in Turkey for three years. “Many promises but no results, only faith in God” he says. This has been the only support he found during this time: his Christian faith and trust in God. Regardless of all that has happened Pascal is convinced: “I came to Turkey with the intentions of playing football but God brought me here for another league. I have not played a single game with any club but I am playing a game which is more important: to give God`s testimony with my life and my actions. I had one plan, but God had other plans for me. God made me find another team. I have found a prayer group, my faith has grown, I pray every day and I give praise to Him for bringing me here.”

There are thousands of Africans in Turkey

The story of Pascal can be one, but it’s not, there are dozens like him. Young boys from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and other African countries come here with lots of hope and dreams. Following the same fraudulent system, all were promised to find a football club for them; they pay huge amounts in their home countries. Most of them are helped by the support and efforts of the whole family and once they are here, they discover that this was all a farce.  Fr. Julius Ohnele, a Nigerian priest who is responsible for pastoral care of these immigrants in Istanbul, tells that the number of the players is so large that, with lot of hard work for the last five years, they organized a championship between the African players who have come from different countries: “The training and matches keep them busy and it’s healthy that they get training and keep themselves in form. Furthermore, we invite different football clubs to see them playing and through this work we have managed to place some players in clubs.”

The case of these players is just one specific case, but there are thousands of Africans in Turkey. “Some of them flee from the situation of war and violence in their own countries, for example Somalia, Eritrea and Congo. Others think that while living here, they will find a better life or a step closer to the neighboring countries. The geographic situation of Turkey makes it a place of transit for them, however the border with Greece is very controlled and in the end many of the immigrants get stuck, without money, without work, without hope. Many end with depression,” explains Fr. Julius.

The residence permit costs from $1000 to $3000 – depending on how long one had stayed as illegal migrant in the country – and it is only for six months. Finding a job is difficult and often they feel discriminated and disadvantaged in society. Some of them rely on occasional work for hire, which is also difficult to find and get very little to sustain themselves. Frequently they look for help from Fr. Julius, who he himself has almost nothing material to offer them except his prayers: “It is hard to get support or any assistance for them in Turkey, much more difficult than in other countries in Europe.”

“The prayer sustains us all”

To go back to their countries it is impossible for them, not only for the lack of money to pay the transportation. “My brothers prefer to die starving, without medical help and being humiliated, instead of going back to their homes to destroy the hopes that families have placed on them. In our own countries, they think that Europe is a land where they are going to find a better life and been able to help those who have been left in their countries. The families give out all that they have so that their child could go abroad; sometimes they borrow a big amount of money and bring themselves into debt. Going back home to admit that one has been deceived is unimaginable; better to die in misery than going back,” recounts Pascal.

“They all suffer a lot, many end up in prison. Others have tried to go to Greece with fatal results. Shortly, after arriving here in 2007, I lost some of my parishioners. I knew them, I had prayed with them. They all were drowned when the boat in which they went sank. That day I felt my heart was broken. Unfortunately, this is happening continuously,” tells Father Julius.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

The face a reality that is not easy for them in a country where 99.6% are Muslims. The catholic community is one of the few places where these “diaspora Africans” feel at home. Besides Mass in English on Sunday, Father Julius celebrates the African mass regularly, with its music and customs. “These meetings are a good opportunity to give them a message of hope, perseverance and encouragement. Many of them have seen strengthen their faith after suffering so many difficulties. There are rosary groups, charismatic groups. The prayer sustains us all. God is their hope,” concludes the priest.


Even though Turkey´s Christian population is barely 0.3%, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported 100 projects in Turkey in the last twenty years. 

A significant amount of ACN´s help has gone towards Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the eastern part of the country. Since 2010, ACN donated a total of $182,600 to Iraqi refugees, mainly via the Chaldean Church and the Salesian Fathers in Istanbul. The Salesians look after families and are particularly concerned to ensure that the children continue to receive a school education. ACN has also helped Syrian refugees in Eastern Turkey, since the onset of the Syrian crisis. From 2013 to 2014, ACN has donated a total of $66,000 – towards their most essential needs.

We invite you to continue visiting our blog – www.aidchurch.wordpress.com over the coming days to get more information on the subject and the situation effecting refugees in Turkey.


Tomorrow:  100 projects in the last 20 years


The situation of the Christians in Turkey – between the past and the present

29.11.2014 in ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Refugees, Turkey
By Sébastien de Courtois, Istanbul (Turkey) 

The population of Turkey is regarded as a majority Sunni Muslim one, of almost 65%, but with a strong minority of Alevis – a branch of Shia Islam – estimates of which vary between 25% and 35% of the total population. The Alevis of Turkey are somewhat on the margins of the Muslim world. They do not attend the mosques, but rather the cem evi, or « houses of prayer »; they do not observe the Ramadan fast, nor do they observe the practice of the five daily prayers. While they are officially regarded by the Turkish administration as « Muslims », it is apparent from the above facts that they are outside what is generally regarded as Islam. That is why, when considering the place of the various religions within Turkey it is important not to forget them, since very often the Alevis see themselves as a « minority », just like the Jews and the Christians. Politically, they are opposed to the Islamic and conservative government of the ruling AKP party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), which has been in power since 2002, and they tend to support a republican, progressive and secularist agenda.

Having themselves suffered at times from a similar kind of discrimination, the Alevis of Turkey are demanding official recognition of their specific character by the Diyanet, the administration for religious affairs. Since 2009 it has no longer been compulsory to indicate one’s religion on one’s identity card.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

As for the Christians of Turkey, they are thought to number no more than around 100,000 individuals, a very small minority in relation to a population that now exceeds 75 million. The Christian communities are divided among several historical branches – the Armenians, with perhaps 80,000 individuals, the Syriac Christians, numbering between 20,000 and 25,000, the Greek Orthodox (known as rum in Turkish – meaning « Roman » in fact) and a few hundred Latin-rite Catholic families living in some of the larger cities around Izmir (the ancient city of Smyrna) and above all in Istanbul. This vast metropolis – which is not however the capital of Turkey – is home to a veritable mosaic of Eastern Christianity. All the churches of East and West are represented here – in addition to the major communities mentioned above. They include Chaldeans from the south-east (originally from the Hakkâri), the Syriac Orthodox of Tur Abdin, Bulgarians, Russians (with their churches built on the roofs of Karaköy), Poles, Ukrainians, Protestant and Anglican churches and a series of Catholic institutions engaged in an educational and social system. An example of the latter are the Don Bosco school, run by the Salesian sisters, or the hospice in Bomonti, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have been present in Turkey since 1892.

Now, with the explosion in the number of refugees from all over the world – but principally those from Sub-Saharan Africa, Syria and Iraq – the churches in Istanbul are becoming full again. Generally speaking, and still today, the Christian churches have always found themselves at best in a « minority » situation – and at worst in a « ghetto » situation in Turkey. However, the Christian presence cannot be reduced to these small ersatz communities, even though they are very appealing: the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, for instance, who embodies the heritage of the ancient Byzantine Empire and the destiny of the Orthodox world, governing as he does from the Fener quarter on the Golden Horn. Even though the rum community is now reduced to just a few hundred people, the importance of this patriarchal see is a symbol that far transcends international frontiers. The Byzantine past of Istanbul and Anatolia should not be underestimated; there are still thousands of churches and monasteries scattered across the countryside – many of them ruined and abandoned. The historic peninsular of Istanbul would be nothing without the massive silhouette of Santa Sofia – Hagia Sofia – which dates back to the first half of the sixth century under Emperor Justinian. By its sheer size and grace this monument reminds the visitor that Turkish society is also built on a Christian past. We should not forget this invisible continuity with the present.

At the same time, in the south-east of the country in the Mardin region, one can still find the last of the active Christian monasteries in Turkey. There are five of them (around 20 religious altogether) and they are under the jurisdiction of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Some of the monasteries produce pistachios, raisins and olive oil. This region is called the Tur Abdin, the « Mountain of the Servants of God », an ancient preserve of the Syriac presence and spirituality. The Christians of the region still speak a language of Aramean origin, known as the turoyo. Around these monasteries there are a number of Christian villages, twenty or so in all, which once again have their own specifically regional character.

Santa Sofia – Hagia Sofia

Santa Sofia – Hagia Sofia

Since 1915 and the destruction of the First World War the Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia was – with rare exceptions – deported and massacred by the Young Turk government of the time. The fact that Turkey has always refused to recognise this genocide of the Armenians is indicative of a malaise that still constitutes one of the major handicaps for Turkey on the international stage. The normalisation of relations between Greece and Turkey, which began with the reciprocal aid that these neighbour countries gave each other at the time of the earthquakes in 1999, has been reinforced thanks to the joint efforts to resolve the problem of Cyprus.

However, it is still not enough; the Christians of Turkey continue to depend too heavily on international relations (with Armenia and Greece principally), whereas in fact they are fully Turkish citizens in their own right. Indeed, very often their presence within the Turkish Republic is more ancient than that of those people ordinarily considered as « Turkish ». This is a paradox that exists to this day. The Christians in Turkey are very often regarded as « foreigners » in their own country, which is a great pity. Despite the freedom of worship, they are constantly being forced to justify their place in society. In recent years there have been some very disturbing murders of Catholic and Protestant priests and religious, not to mention the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin. A not insignificant section of the Turkish population, driven by nationalism, still accuses the « Christians » of Turkey of wanting to destabilize the Turkish « nation » and even of being foreign agents, an attitude that smacks of acute paranoia.

Finally, it should be kept in mind that many of the major cities mentioned in the Gospels and in the journeys of the Apostles Peter and Paul are today to be found in Turkey – Antioch, Ephesus, Caesarea and even Sardis, and the region of Galatea, which is modern day Ankara. The Jews – principally Sephardi – make up the third largest religious community in the country, with around 25,000 faithful. All the religious minorities are looking forward to the visit of the Pope at the end of November.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need


The massacre of the Armenians and Syriac Christians of Turkey

The Armenian and Syriac communities in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire were the victims of a series of massacres between 1895 and 1915. The fate of the Syriac communities was linked with the more general fate of the Armenians. The eastern provinces, strongly Christianized over history, were the most affected – Cilicia, Eastern Anatolia, the provinces of Erzurum, Van, Bitlis and Hakkâri, as well as the province of Diyarbakir. Nor was Istanbul spared, where the Armenians were also massacred, especially the leading figures and intellectuals.

The Syriac Churches

The Syriac world is the least well-known. It represents a sort of eastern ecumenism of its own. This inheritance goes back to Antioch, the town where the Christians were for the first time called by the name « Christian ». This family includes five distinct Churches, which all share the Syriac language as their heritage – the Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic Churches, the Oriental and Chaldean Churches and the Maronite Church of Lebanon.


Even though Turkey´s Christian population is barely 0.3%, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported 100 projects in Turkey in the last twenty years. 

A significant amount of ACN´s help has gone towards Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the eastern part of the country. Since 2010, ACN donated a total of $182,600 to Iraqi refugees, mainly via the Chaldean Church and the Salesian Fathers in Istanbul. The Salesians look after families and are particularly concerned to ensure that the children continue to receive a school education. ACN has also helped Syrian refugees in Eastern Turkey, since the onset of the Syrian crisis. From 2013 to 2014, ACN has donated a total of $66,000 – towards their most essential needs.

We invite you to visit our blog – www.aidchurch.wordpress.com over the coming days to get more information on the subject and the situation effecting refugees in Turkey.


 More to come on this special series about Christians in Turkey on Monday, December 1


27.11.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Pope Francis, Turkey


An ecumenical visit above all

By Sébastien de Courtois, Istanbul (Turkey)
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 Montreal/Turkey, Thursday November 27, 2014 – Pope Francis will be in Turkey from November 28 to 30.  First, he is destined for the capital, Ankara, then to Istanbul to meet Patriarch Bartholomew.  This last meeting is the real objective of the Papal visit, for it is important to the Churches, even if the two men know each other well.

This visit actually falls within a tradition begun by Paul VI in 1967, when he met with Athenagoras, the patriarch at the time.  Since, the tradition rooted itself with each of proceeding freshly elected Holy Father travelling to Turkey at the joint invitation of the patriarch and the Turkish authorities.

Following formal meetings in Ankara, with the president, Tayyip Erdogan and the Minister of Religious Affairs, the pope will bow before the monumental tomb of Atatürk, the founder of the Republic, in a sign of friendship. The following day, in Istanbul, Francis will go to Hagia Sophia, the great Orthodox Basilica (shown in the image to the right) in the company of the patriarch.  In the company of the Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yara, the pope will then go on foot to the close by Sultan Ahmed Mosque.  In the afternoon, he will go to a Mass for the Catholics in Turkey at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Harbiye.  The very next day he will participate in the celebrations of the Feast of Saint Andrew in the company of the patriarch in the venerable Saint George Church in the historic Greek district of Faith, Fener.


A walk toward unity

« The pope is very sensitive to finding ecumenism working between our two sister Churches.  If he comes to Constantinople, it is to encourage a walk toward unity.  Ecumenism is long process.  In the world of today, this is a very powerful symbol showing that the Churches see each other and speak to each other… the divisions belong to history.  Every year, to celebrate the Feast of Saint Andrew, a delegation from the Vatican comes to Fener,» explains Brother Gwenole Jeusset, a Franciscan of Santa-Maria-in – Draperis, one of the churches in the Beyoglu district.

The Patriarch has in the past already shown his interest in this question: “It’s not simply a matter of reiterating a strong ecumenical commitment made fifty years ago, but of intensifying the meetings in order to clear the way for a new stage in the establishment of full communion between our two sister Churches. We must give a visible sign that ecumenism is not running out of steam.” Last October in Istanbul, he himself held a conference in Italian – a language which he speaks fluently, as he does French and English – in order to celebrate the sanctification of Saint John XXIII, who had been Roman Nuncio in Turkey.

It is certain that the political aspect of this visit reinforces the Patriarch in his positions in Turkey. The reasons for conflict are numerous: the matter of Church properties – buildings and land – the reopening of certain churches for worship, such as the monastery of Sumela near Trabzon on the Black Sea, or more importantly the reopening of the Orthodox seminary on the island of Halki, which was closed arbitrarily in 1971.


The disastrous effect of the Islamic State

Finally, the situation of Christians in the Middle East, in Iraq and in Syria after the dramatic events of this summer cannot fail to arise in the conversation between the two religious representatives. Being a transit location for migrants, Turkey is confronted with the war being fought at its gates and with the disastrous effect of the Islamic State. And the question of refugees as well, as Turkey shelters more than two million Syrians and many others coming from Iraq and Sub-Saharan Africa. Pope Francis made his first journey to the island of Lampedusa in order to make the European authorities sensitive to these human dramas. For a number of years the churches in Istanbul have again been full due to the unexpected presence of these thousands of the faithful. The clergy are sometimes overwhelmed. “On Sunday morning in the cathedral four Masses are said in succession, each in a different language. The faces of the unfortunates are those of the universal Church. Through this contact we are rediscovering the original meaning of the Gospel …” Brother Gwenolé concludes.

There remains the delicate subject for Turkey of the evocation, or not, of the Armenian genocide, towards which Pope Francis has shown himself to be extremely sensitive. Last June he referred to the persecutions before the Armenian Catholicos Aram I. There is no doubt that the Pope will be welcomed with joy by all the Christian communities in Turkey, but also by a number of Muslim Turks who are sensitive to his talk of an opening up and dialogue.

Even though Turkey´s Christian population is barely 0.3%, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported 100 projects in Turkey in the last twenty years. 

A significant amount of ACN´s help has gone towards Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the eastern part of the country. Since 2010, ACN donated a total of $182,600 to Iraqi refugees, mainly via the Chaldean Church and the Salesian Fathers in Istanbul. The Salesians look after families and are particularly concerned to ensure that the children continue to receive a school education.

ACN has also helped Syrian refugees in Eastern Turkey, since the onset of the Syrian crisis. From 2013 to 2014, ACN has donated a total of  $66,000 – towards their most essential needs.

We invite you to visit our blog – www.aidchurch.wordpress.com over the coming days to get more information on the subject and the situation effecting refugees in Turkey.

News from Nigeria

21.11.2014 in ACN PRESS, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Boko Haram, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians



By ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Boko Haram emerged as a terrorist group in 2009. In the last few months we have seen the aggressive devastation of the Boko Haram activities. Many of our people are forced out of their ancestral homes. Right now, thousands are living in mountain caves; the few who were able to escape have been taken in by friends and relatives in Maiduguri and Yola. Thousands have managed to escape to Cameroon and are living in very difficult conditions lacking food, shelter and medication.

Parents stood by watching their children grow weak and die. A good number of our youth are forcefully conscripted, while the elderly, women and children are converted to Islam. A lot of Nigerians are trapped and are forced to practice strict Sharia law in communities like: Bama, Gwoza, Madagali, Gulak, Shuwa, Michika Uba up on till Mubi. These are the towns on the Federal road linking Maiduguri and Yola in Adamawa state.

All of these captured towns by our estimation are no longer part of the Nigerian entity because no one can go in, but those who would luckily escape have got stories to tell. The terrorists have declared all the captured towns as Islamic Caliphate. The people trapped are forced to accept and practice the strict doctrines the militants are out to propagate.

Mubi is predominantly a Christian community and the second largest commercial nerve in Adamawa state after Yola. It forms a district in the Diocese of Maiduguri and has two strong parish centers: St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and Holy Trinity. It also has two great Chaplaincies: Federal Polytechnic and Adamawa State University.

Wednesday October 29th was a sad day in the whole diocese.  The Boko Haram insurgents over ran the town making over 50,000 inhabitants flee. A good number fled to Cameroon and were trapped for days: Including five priests and two sisters. With the fall of Mubi; of the six districts, three have been captured and occupied by the terrorists. What a life!! We are keeping to the Church’s teachings on the witness of presence.

We have over 100,000 Catholics displaced and some who were trapped are still finding their way out to safe towns.  For now the diocese is saddled with the responsibility of caring for the Internally Displaced persons. This she does across board not minding religious confessions, because we look at our common humanity.  We have more than seven camps in Maiduguri and other displaced brethren are with their relations and friends.


With the fall of Mubi the Estimated Figure of Destruction reads:


  • of Persons killed: Over 2,500 Catholic Faithful have been killed.
  • Displaced persons: Over 100,000 Catholic faithful are displaced. Most schools in the Northeast cannot reconvene regular activities not only because of the terrorists, but also because such school premises now serve as refugee camps.
  • Displaced Priests: Out of the (46) priests currently working in the diocese (26) are displaced. Many of such Priests are accommodated by Bishop Dami Mamza of Yola Diocese.
  • Displaced Catechists: Over (200) Catechists are displaced.
  • Displaced Rev. Sisters: Over (20) Rev. Sisters are displaced.
  • Abducted women and girls: Over (200).
  • Forceful conversion to Islam: A good number of our faithful have been converted to Islam against their will.
  • Deserted convents: Out of the (5) convents, (4) have been deserted.
  • Churches destroyed: Over (50) churches and rectories have been razed down, a good number were destroyed more than once.
  • Deserted Churches/Chaplaincies: Out of the (40) parish centers / chaplaincies (22) are presently deserted and occupied by the terrorists.
  • Affected Schools: The diocese has over (40) primary and secondary schools, over (30) have been deserted.
  • Compensation: The diocese has not seen any compensation for the destructions of lives and properties from 2006 and 2009 to date.


Borno State has been captured and occupied by Boko Haram, Gomboru Ngalla and Bama, Gwoza, Maffa and Abadam. Askira Uba, Dikwa, and  Marte. Other towns include: Pulka, Banki etc. Maiduguri is completely surrounded by the terrorists.  The one exit out of Maiduguri city is only the Maiduguri-Damaturu road.  The same is true for areas of Adamawa State and Yobe State. These towns are under strict control by the terrorists and no well meaning Nigerian can trespass.