International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need


What Future for Iraq? Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako

11.09.2014 in ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Uncategorized
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A speech delivered on September 9, 2014 by His Beatitude Patriarch Sako, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, in Antwerp, during a conference organized by Sant’Egidio.0807Iraq_Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad

For almost two millennia Christian communities have lived in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. These groups have contributed economically, politically, and intellectually, and have helped shape their respective cultures. Unfortunately, in the 21st century Middle Eastern Christians are being severely persecuted. When they have the means, many are fleeing the region.

It has become obvious that Iraqi Christians along with other minorities have received a fatal blow at the heart of their lives and their existence when more than one hundred and twenty thousand Christians were forced to flee from their houses and villages, when their possessions of a lifetime, valuables and documents were looted and when their houses were occupied: all these, just for being Christian!

Displacement and emigration have had great impact on us, both Christian and Muslim. Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society, the Christian one; hence a genuine and ancient tradition is endangered!

Due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, the international community cannot be indifferent. It is also sad to say that the response of the international Muslim community towards the barbaric acts committed (in the name of their religion) against the life, dignity and freedom of Christians is not up to our expectations, considering that Christians have contributed and fought for this country, living in partnership with their Muslim brothers alongside the Islamic civilization (sharing their sufferings and their joys).

Religious fundamentalism is still growing in power and force, provoking tragedies, and making us wonder when the Islamic religious scholars and the Muslim intellectuals will critically examine this dangerous phenomenon and eradicate it by educating a true religious consciousness and spreading an authentic culture of accepting people of other faiths as brothers and as citizens with equal and full rights. ISIS is moving forward with its ferocious war against culture and diversity, and thus threatening the intellectual and social fabric of the entire society.

Christians and Muslims should not give up on raising their voices against the extremists and should work together to create a new mentality of living together in peace and harmony. Therefore it is high time that an effective action be undertaken at the ideological level within the Islamic world to stop the claim of these extremists of their religious legitimacy for receiving resources and for recruiting new militants.

We urge all religious and political leaders to spread the culture of openness, diversity, plurality and equality in the face of a culture of extremism, elimination, marginalization and social backwardness supported by a weak individual and collective consciousness of its own deficiency. Only education can commence this transformation and build a society where equality amongst citizens succeeds. This can be achieved primarily by revising accordingly the curriculum of all centers of learning, especially centers of religious education. To guarantee a better coexistence it is imperative to create a civil society that respects every religion and does not politicize religions for its own benefits.



The title of this meeting 100 years post World War I, is Religions and Cultures in Dialogue for more peace in the future. This should be our way of life. So I suggest some practical points.

The notion of religion in Islam and its theological language differs from Christian perspective. Islam is a system where religion and politics are interlocked and which dictates all areas of human existence. I think the moment has come to separate religion which is based on truth, from politics, which is based essentially on interests (of the one who rules or of the one who wants to rule)!

  1. Dialogue is a process, a way of life. It is not an office business neither something that can be reduced to some meetings or discussions. Dialogue is a genuine intellectual effort to think and to analyze one’s own faith, life and culture, while creating space to understand the faith, life and culture of other peoples. In this process, the authentic seeker of dialogue finds more similarities than dissimilarities between religions, more reasons to be united than to be divided between faiths. Then religion becomes personal and not an inherited reality.
  1. The promotion of human rights is the best common ground between Muslims and Christians on which both can work and act in order to promote a peaceful coexistence. We both should care for the health and fight against hunger and analphabetism. An updating of the religious vocabulary and a reform of the programs of religious teaching is crucial. Transformation and renewal is part of nature. Culture is evolving, mentalities are being refined, and languages are developing.  We should seek a new method to think and exist in a spirit of “mercy and in service of love” (cfr.Ut Unum Sint, 92-93, 95) instead of having recourse to excuses to justify the current situation. Religions should seek a new human and theological language which speaks and touches the heart of persons and gives their life a direction and a hope instead of being instruments of violence for the benefits of a few. I invite our Muslim friends in the Middle East to bring a common action to “a Common Word.”
  1. Reforms of Constitutions: Islam is the religion of the state in the Constitutions of Islamic Countries. To do justice to the situation and to the history, an amendment of these Constitutions is necessary. An amendment which guarantees the Christians and other minorities, who were inhabitants of this land from their beginnings, equal treatment like the Muslim citizens. Toleration “dhimi” is not what we expect, but equality. Religion should not become a criterion for discriminating citizens. Christians are a distinguished minority in the Middle East, rooted in their lands, with open minds and a capacity to dialogue, who contributed a lot to their countries in different fields of life, especially in the field of education.

Finally: Let us Christians, Muslims and Yezides stop the logic of conflicts and violence and replace it with the logic of dialogue and peace, then we all will have future. I do believe that the solution for our problems is a federal regime which can keep the unity of the country and can help.

There are only 6 months left before we face winter, so please we urge you:

  • To liberate not only the plain of Nineveh, but also Mosul.
  • To support the safe return of the displaced population to their homes.
  • To help to immediately reestablish water and electricity and other services.





Interview with Bishop Jacek Pyl from Ukraine, conducted by Robert Lalonde

03.09.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, ACN PROJECTS, CONSTRUCTION, Contemplative Sisters, FORMATION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Ukraine

An interview with Bishop Jacek Pyl, diocese of  Odessa-Simferopol – interpreted by Father Marian Gil – conducted by Robert Lalonde, Head of information for the Canadian office of Aid to the Churcj in Need (ACN) on Tuesday, August 26, in Montreal.

 Written by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada





‘Let’s support one another’

Can you describe the diocese of Odessa-Simferopol in terms of the numbers of faithful, its churches and other information you would like to share with us about your diocese?

The diocese of Odessa-Simferopol is situated in the Southeast territory of Ukraine.  It’s a bit bigger than one third of Poland. It is a missionary territory which is slowly growing and within it, we face many challenges.  The diocese is presently split following the Russian take-over of Crimea. My co-cathedral is situated in Simferopol in Crimea, where the Russian presence has taken-over while the diocesan bishop is in Odessa – which is approximately 460 kilometers from Simferopol. Therefore, my diocesan bishop, Bishop Bronislaw Bernackiis in Odessa and I am in Simferopol. Under my jurisdiction there are 7 parishes and 13 priests. The entire diocese has 64 priests. and has about 3,000 faithful. 

Can you tell us about the climate in the diocese since the split took place?

It is a very challenging situation where we have many questions but not too many answers. Although there is war in Ukraine and Crimea is under Russian rule, the Catholic Church can still exercise its ministry but we do not know how our future is going to look.

 How did your diocese mobilize itself following this difficult situation?

Following the Russian take-over, Aid to the Church in Need and another organizations contacted me and asked if I needed any help. ACN responded immediately and I am very grateful that we were not left alone. We received medical help and also food to distribute among the poor people in the parishes.

Can you tell us what you know about the priest who was kidnapped in East Ukraine?

I am aware of one priest who was kidnapped and released a week later thanks to the efforts of bishops and also thanks to the priests of Patriarchate of Moscow.  He is doing his ministry, however the bishop restricted his ministry from the area where war is taking place because it is dangerous and because of possible unforeseen consequences.

UKRAINE 2 Can you tell us more about the actual needs at this time?

The needs are very great and varied because this territory is where our most basic and fundamental work began just 25 years ago. If we speak about needs, first of all we need priests and also religious sisters who would help us with evangelization.  In Crimea, we celebrate Mass in three languages: predominantly in Russian, but also in English for students from India and Africa in Simferopol and in Spanish in Sevastopol. And occasionally we celebrate Mass in Ukrainian and Polish.  If I would have enough priests I would be able to open several new parishes.

I would like to invite a contemplative order of sisters who would pray and support this mission from a spiritual point of view because it is an incredible challenge we face, and we need the spiritual support. Once I find a religious order who would like to come and work with us, I would also like to build a monastery for them for which I will need funds. In Ukraine (Kiev and Kharkov) there are Carmelite Sisters and we are very happy to have contemplative religious orders.  A contemplative dimension is very important in our Evangelization.

What would you like to see happen in your diocese?

If the situation stabilizes than my plan is to build a co-cathedral there because we have a very small place for celebrating Mass and for meetings with people at this time.  We have been waiting for the last 20 years to get permission to build a church. So, time will show, and we would also like to build facilities for priests and for meetings with parishioners.

 Will this project be submitted to ACN?

Primarily, ACN looks after these types of projects. As I mentioned, we have been trying for the last 20 years to get permission to build a church. More recently, I had begun speaking with the Orthodox Archbishop Lazar, representative of the Moscow Patriarch in Simferopol; he showed certain openness towards the idea of building a church. We have done many things in order to advance our preparation for building the co-cathedral and other facilities but, everything stopped after the Russian take-over and we are not sure if we will have to start again from the beginning or what will happen with the project.



 How did the people of your diocese react after the tragic crash of a Boeing Malaysia Airlines plane which caused the deaths of 298 people on July 17?

It was a great shock for everyone.  We prayed for those people and embraced them with our prayers. We prayed for those who shot down the plane and for those who were killed.  It was a terrifying situation when we learned that these people, their bodies, were deprived of their dignity because thieves stole their clothing, their belongings, credit cards and whatever they could find. They were not treated like human bodies …

 We recently learned that there would be elections on October 26 in this regard.  What is the position of the Church?  Are they encouraging them to vote?

The Catholic Church of Latin rite prays for just elections and that they are good, solid and also wise people are elected for this country.  Ukraine has suffered so much and for so long – so it is about time that we have good and wise people who will rule this country. We also need champions for peace – because whenever war takes place, everyone suffers.  Families and children – Ukrainian and Russian people suffer alike. War tears people and families apart.

Can you tell us more about the impact on families as a result of this conflict?

There are many mixed marriages, between the Ukrainian and Russian people. This war actually created unbelievable wounds within marriages and families – the society and the Churches.  So, we pray for healing and reconciliation, because it brought upon this nation incredible devastation. We pray for a solution which would create a new civilization not using force to resolve problems, but finding a way instead through dialogue and mutual respect to build a new society.



 Finally, do you have a message for our benefactors?

First of all I would like to ask the benefactors to pray for peace in Ukraine. And then I would like to thank them on behalf of all missionaries there for their prayers, for their solidarity and also their material support. I was very happy when I learned that I would have a chance to meet with ACN here in Canada and that I would be given an opportunity to meet representatives of the Canadian branch. I want to say thank you to the people of Canada and North America for their support.

This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Oblate presence of Missionaries of Mary Immaculate in Ukraine. And if we have achieved anything good ministering in Ukraine for the last 25 years, we did it thanks to the support of many dedicated people. We especially thank Aid to the Church in Need.

I would like to summarize in one sentence – let’s support each other, this is the way we can build a better world and better society; when we share our prayers and material goods with each other, the world then becomes a better place.

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Press Release – Iraq: Shocked, in pain and worried

24.07.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Press Release

For Immediate Release        

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Archbishops from Mosul, Iraq: “We call on all people of conscience in the world to put pressure on to the militants to stop the destruction”


Montreal, Thursday July 24, 2014 – In a dramatic appeal to the international community the Archbishops of Mosul in Iraq are asking for more outside help for minorities in Iraq. With violence still ongoing in parts of the country, they declared: “We, the Archbishops of Mosul, coming from all the denominations gathered in Erbil/Ankawah, headed by His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael Louis I Sako, are shocked, in pain, and worried about what happened to the innocent Christians of Mosul because of their religion. It is a crime against humanity, as the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon said, and ‘a shameful stain that should not be tolerated’ as the Secretary General of the Arab League Mr. Nabil Alaraby called it. It’s a crime in and of itself – a blatant persecution that we condemn and denounce.”


In the appeal presented to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the Archbishops stated their demand for the national government to provide protection for Christians and other minorities, financial support for displaced families who have lost everything, as well as a list of all the damage incurred to ensure they are compensated. The Archbishops also declared: “We call on all people of conscience in Iraq and the world to put pressure on to the militants to stop the destruction of churches and monasteries and the burning of manuscripts and relics from our Christian heritage, which are also a priceless Iraqi and global heritage. What has been said about an agreement between the militants and churchmen is completely untrue, because what has happened is an unmitigated crime that cannot be denied or justified!”

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An urgent message of Patriarch Louis Raphael I SakoChaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad

23.07.2014 in ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq

Christians of Mosul : Where are you going?


To all who have a living conscience in Iraq and throughout the world

To the voice of moderate brother Muslims who have a voice in Iraq and throughout the world

To all those who are concerned that Iraq should remain a country for all His Children

To all leaders of thought and opinion

To all those who proclaim the freedom of the human being

To all protectors of the dignity of human beings and of religion




The control exercised by the Islamist Jihadists upon the city of Mosul, and their proclamation of it as an Islamic State, after several days of calm and expectant watching of events, has now come to reflect negatively upon the Christian population of the city and its environs.

The initial sign was in the kidnapping of the two nuns and 3 orphans who were released after 17 days. At the time, we experienced it as a flash of hope and as a clearing of the sky after the appearance of storm clouds.

Suddenly, we were surprised by more recent outcomes which are the proclamation of an Islamic state and the announcement calling all Christians and clearly asking them to convert to Islam or to pay the joziah (the tax all non- Muslims must pay while living in the land of Islam) – without specifying the exact amount. The only alternative is to abandon the city and their houses with only the clothes they are wearing, taking nothing else. Moreover, by Islamic law, upon their departure, their houses are no longer their properties, but are instantly confiscated as property of the Islamic state.

In recent days, there has been written the letter ‘N’ in Arabic on the front wall of Christian homes, signifying ‘Nazara’ (Christian), and on the front wall of Shiite homes, the letter ‘R’ signifying ‘Rwafidh’ (Protestants or rejecters). We do not know what will happen in future days because in an Islamic state the Al – sharia or Islamic code of law is powerful and has been interpreted to require the issuance of new I.D.s for the population based on religious or sectarian affiliation.

This categorization based upon religion or sect afflicts the Muslims as well and contravenes the regulation of Islamic thought which is expressed in the Quran which says, “You have your religion and I have my religion” and yet another place in Quran states, “There is no compulsion in religion.” This is exactly the contradiction in the life and history of the Islamic world for more than 1,400 years and in the co – existence with other different religions and nations in the East and in the West.

With all due respect to belief and dogmas, there has been a fraternal life between Christians and Muslims. How much the Christians have shared here in our East specifically from the beginnings of Islam. They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life; Christian and Muslim blood has been mixed as it was shed in the defense of their rights and lands. Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.

It is clear that the result of all this discrimination legally enforced will be the very dangerous elimination of the possibility of co – existence between majorities and minorities. It will be very harmful to Muslims themselves both in the near and the distant future.

Should this direction continue to be pursued, Iraq will come face to face with human, civil, and historic catastrophe.


We call with all the force available to us; we call to you fraternally, in a spirit of human brotherhood; we call to you urgently; we call to you impelled by risk and in spite of the risk. We implore in particular our Iraqi brothers asking them to reconsider and reflect upon the strategy they have adopted and demanding that they must respect innocent and weaponless people of all nationalities, religions, and sects.

The Holy Quran has ordered believers to respect the innocent and has never called them to seize the belongings, the possessions, the properties of others by force. The Quran commands refuge for the widow, the orphaned, the poor, and the weaponless and respect “to the seventh neighbor.”

We call Christians in the region to act with reason and prudence and to consider and to plan everything in the best way possible. Let them understand what is planned for this region, to practice solidarity in love, to examine the realities together and so be able together to find the paths to build trust in themselves and in their neighbors. Let them stay close to their own Church and surround it; endure the time of trial and pray until the storm will be over.

† Louis Raphael Sako

Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldean

17 July 2014



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Press Release: Iraq – Patriarch Louis Raphaël Sako to EU Leaders: “Help us avoid a civil war”

14.07.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq

By Mark von Reidemann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


ACN – Montreal, July 10, 2014 – Iraq’s Christian leaders called on the European Union (EU) to help the country avoid a civil war threatening the future of the country and their “very fragile” minorities. The EU heads of State will discuss the common policy toward the Iraq crisis on July 16.

In view of the rapidly declining situation in Iraq, the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) invited a delegation to Brussels from this country headed by His Beatitude Louis Raphaël Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Patriarch Sako, accompanied by Syrian Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul and Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Youssif Mirkis of Kirkuk, met EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy as well as members of the European Commission and Parliament.

Patriarch Sako outlined to EU representatives that the situation for the weakened Christian minority is extremely difficult and if no peaceful resolution is found, “Christians will be left with just a symbolic presence in Iraq. If they leave, their history is finished.” The Patriarch further stated that Christians continue to flee areas held by jihadist militants in the north, though they “so far have not been targeted as a group. Muslims are also fleeing and they have found shelter in the nearby villages with Christian families and in Church buildings.”

The delegation explained that the Christian community, despite systematic persecution and violence over its nineteen centuries of existence,  still performs  a constructive role in negotiating between warring parties in these sectarian conflicts, and facilitating relations with the international community. Having not taken sides and promoting non-violent solutions, Christians are often mediating between different actors of conflict, trying to build bridges through dialogue.  “We are known  to be a disinterested mediator seeking the good of the country. Where fighting groups refuse to meet outside, when we invite them to our Churches to talk, they come.”

European People’s Party MEP Tunne Kelam noted that the Iraqi crisis has made EU politicians more aware of the fate of Christians in the Middle East. “We cannot remain indifferent to their situation, the EU should do its utmost to assist them and create conditions that Christians, the oldest known inhabitants of that region, can remain there in conditions of equality and mutual respect.”

In spite of its vital role as the connective tissue of the Iraqi society, the loss of security and growth of sectarianism has made the Christian community a shadow of its former self. Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 Iraqi Christians numbered more than 1.5 million nationwide with 70% living in Baghdad. Today there are fewer than 400,000 Christians with the majority still in Baghdad, but continuing to migrate to the North in regions under Kurdish control where there is a semblance of security. Patriarch Sako stated: “Under Saddam we had security but no religious freedom. Today we have religious freedom but no security.” Archbishop Mirkis confirmed saying that today “there’s so much panic that few Christians see their future in Iraq.” The Catholic Chaldeans leaders fear that the ongoing violence in Iraq is hastening the end of nearly 2,000 years of Christianity in Iraq.

ACN Interview with Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “This is Iraq’s darkest hour”

04.07.2014 in ACN International, ACN Interview, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Uncategorized

The Head of the Chaldean-Catholic Church fears Christian exodus in Iraq


Interview with Oliver Maksan of the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” in the Middle East on the current situation in Iraq. The interview was conducted on Saturday, 28.6.2014, in Ankawa near Erbil.


Question: Have you any hope that Iraq can remain a single state?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “No. Perhaps a symbolic unit and the name of Iraq will continue to exist. But de facto there will be three independent zones with their own budgets and armies.”


Question: What are the consequences of the disintegration of the state for Christians in Iraq?

IRAK-1Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “That is the question. To be honest we bishops are somewhat at a loss at the present time. The future may lie in Kurdistan. Many Christians are already living there after all. But there are also many who live in Baghdad, and there are also some in Basra in the Shiite south. We must wait and see how things develop.”


Question: On Friday the synod of the Chaldean Church in Erbil came to an end. Did you decide on any measures in view of the crisis of Christian refugees from areas occupied by ISIS or otherwise under threat from them?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “We have been closely concerned with this. We also assigned a commission of five bishops from the areas affected whose task is to ensure initial aid for the refugees. The American and French consuls were here to help us and to develop a vision. But everything is still in a state of flux. I and other bishops are of the opinion that the situation will deteriorate. At present there are three fragments of Iraq, a Sunni one, a Kurdish one and a Shiite one. The Kurds already enjoy autonomy anyway. The Shiites do as well in a sense. Now the Sunnis are following suit. Iraq will therefore be divided up. If this is the case it will be better to sit down together and find a consensus in order to prevent further fighting and loss of human life.”


Question: Is this the darkest hour for Iraqi Christianity?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “It is the darkest for everybody. There is no persecution of the Christians. Many more Muslims have fled from Mosul and the surrounding area. But what worries us greatly is the fact that the exodus of Christians from Iraq will increase. When I was in Turkey recently ten Christian families from Mosul arrived. And in the space of only one week twenty families left Alqosh, a completely Christian town not far from Mosul. This is very serious. We are losing our community. If Christian life in Iraq comes to an end, this will be a hiatus in our history. Our identity is threatened.”


Question: Should western countries give Iraqi Christians a visa or not?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “The tragedy is that the families are split up. Many are already in the west. The children are constantly asking their parents why they are still there and not following them. You can’t stop this trend. It’s impossible.”


Question: So there’s no hope?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Perhaps the older ones will return when the situation has stabilized. But the young ones will stay outside the country. In ten years there will perhaps be 50,000 Christians left. Prior to 2003 this figure was about 1.2 million. Within ten years we have shrunk to a community of perhaps four to five hundred thousand faithful. We don’t have exact figures.”


Question: What can we Christians in the west do?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “The Christians in the west are very weak. There are good Christians there who support us with their prayers and in material terms. But their influence is slight. On the whole the west is doing nothing at all. We are very disappointed. They are just uninvolved observers. They find football more interesting than the situation here or in Syria. Western policy only pursues economic interests. The international community should put pressure on Iraqi politicians to make them find a political solution and form a government of national unity.”


Question: What can “Aid to the Church in Need” do for Christians in Iraq?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Pray for us. We will need help in the future to create a Christian infrastructure when the situation has stabilized. We will need new houses, and we will have to rebuild the factories and agriculture. The remaining Christian towns will have to be modernized. We will rely on outside help for all this.”


Question: Can you, as someone who is not directly involved, play a mediatory role in the present situation? When you were Archbishop for the town of Kirkuk, which was the subject of contention between the Arabs and the Kurds, your house was open to all parties.

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “I have continued with this in Baghdad. All the important decision-makers are based here. For example, I visited the president of the parliament. But the time for this is now past. The cleft is worse than ever. How should I get to Fallujah in the Sunni Anbar Province? The problem is that the Sunnis do not have a real leader in Baghdad who can speak for them.”


Question: Do you think that the majority of Arab Sunnis support ISIS?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Yes. Quite clearly. They do not necessarily share their ideology. But they support the political goal of regime change and the foundation of their own state. ISIS intends to found an Islamic state with oil wells in order to islamize the world.”


Question: Is this also a danger for the west?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “I think this is a danger for all.”


Question: There are calls for American intervention to stop the advance of ISIS. What do you think?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “No. I don’t view it like that. The Americans have been here and they made a lot of mistakes. The current situation is their fault. Why replace a regime by something even worse? This is what happened after 2003. The Americans deposed a dictator. But under Saddam Hussein at least we had security and work. And what do we have now? Confusion, anarchy and chaos. The same thing has happened in Libya and Syria. If you want to change the situation here you have to educate the people in the schools, media and mosques in matters of freedom, democracy and the construction of their own country. It is impossible to install a democracy on the western pattern here. Under the old regime prior to 2003 we had no denominational problems. We were all Iraqis. Now we talk about Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Arabs and Kurds.”


Question: But wasn’t it only like that because Saddam held the different groups together with an iron fist?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Perhaps in the present context we need in the Middle East a strong leader who is at the same time just and not only looking out for his family or tribe.”


Question: This strong leader isn’t there at the moment. But do you still see a chance of stopping the disintegration of Iraq and finding a political solution?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Such a possibility will still exist if the west and our neighbours such as Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia want it to.”


For Immediate Release: Central African Republic “Central African Republic threatens to become a hub for terrorism”

25.06.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Central Africa, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Montreal, Wednesday June 25, 2014 – The current crisis threatens to turn the Central African Republic into a “hub for terrorism and fundamentalism.” This was the warning given by the Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera last Friday (June 20) while speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Boko Haram and Al Qaida are getting closer and closer,” the missionary said in his address, having worked in the country for 22 years. The role of the international community was “fundamental” he continued.  But to date the international community had “not managed to really change anything.”


Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera  © Aid to the Church in Need

Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera
© Aid to the Church in Need

Concrete action at the grass roots 

Gazzera demanded a speedier and more effective intervention: “Over the past few months I have been present as the vicious circle of ethnic and intercommunity strife has developed. This spiral of violence is causing the population to flee and is sowing the seeds of terror, and it has developed at such a rate that the international community comes too late, even when it acts quickly; too late to help the defenceless people and to stop the armed men.”  The international community “often only steps in to stabilize a situation which has been imposed by the various rebel groupings.”


On the other hand, various local peace-mediating initiatives had been successful. In the town of Bozoum in the north west of the country, where Father Aurelio Gazzera works, for example: The state was absent, he said. “In Bozoum there is practically no gendarmerie or police force and in general the authority of the officials and forces of law and order is almost at zero level. At any rumours of attacks they regularly take immediate flight.” In December Father Gazzera had therefore established a mediation committee in collaboration with two imams, a protestant pastor and volunteers from the local population.  Through negotiations with all the groups involved it had been possible “to lessen the violence of the Séléka”. This work had resulted in January this year in the withdrawal of the Séléka from the town.

The members of the mediation committee had “exposed themselves to risks” in order to work for peace. Gazzera himself had been slapped around the face, had stones thrown at him and been shot at with Kalashnikovs by the rebels. Even so, it had been possible “with a handful of men and women to prevent a thousand rebels from completely destroying the town of Bozoum.” In view of these facts the Italian Carmelite stressed the need to conduct talks not only at governmental level, but also “to listen to those who are taking concrete action at the grass roots.”


Good intentions are not always enough

The committee, which continues to operate, had installed a toll-free telephone number to enable people to report violent assaults. Furthermore a “Committee of Wise Men” has been established which “is intended to solve problems because, in the absence of the court and relevant personnel, there was a danger that the administration of justice would be in the hands of armed groups.”  Gazzera emphasized the role of the media, and especially the internet: “They are a unique instrument for providing information and transmitting news. By means of emails, blogs and social networks we have created links which are valuable and can bring about changes.” Finally he said: “The most important thing seems to me to be the reconstruction of the heart: by means of schools, education and information.  We also need expertise. There are so many people of good will! But good intentions are not always enough. We must understand what has brought the country to such an abyss in order to identify and acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and also to analyse the situation in such a way that we will be able to create a peaceful future.”


© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

In view of his experience in peace mediation, Gazzera also took part last week in the “Oslo Forum,” one of the highest ranking meetings of peace mediators, which was held on 18 and 19 June near the Norwegian capital. At a panel discussion with the President of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, he also reported on his experience with mediation.

At the invitation of the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need,” the missionary had already informed EU politicians in Brussels and diplomats accredited at the Holy See in Rome in April and May of this year about the situation in the Central African Republic.



Iraq ACN grants $150,000 in emergency aid to refugees from Mosul

19.06.2014 in International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Emil Shimon Nona, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul

Emil Shimon Nona, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul

Montreal, June 19, 2014 – Aid to the Church in Need has granted $150,000 in preliminary emergency aid to Christian refugees who fled Mosul after a wave of jihadist attacks in early June.

According to Emil Shimon Nona, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, all of the approx. 3 000 Christian inhabitants of Mosul directly fled the city following the onset of the attacks; most found refuge in villages on the nearby Nineveh plains. The church has found provisional shelter for the refugees in schools, catechesis rooms and abandoned houses. It is “uncertain whether all of the families will be able to return to Mosul.”

The emergency aid is intended for the primary care of those refugees who left all of their possessions behind in Mosul. A few of the Christians have supposedly returned to Mosul, but most of the families are afraid and are staying in the emergency shelters. According to the archbishop, 1000 refugee families are currently receiving care.

Regina Lynch, Project Director at Aid to the Church in Need

Regina Lynch, Project Director at Aid to the Church in Need

Regina Lynch, Project Director at Aid to the Church in Need, said: “We are very close to this church and have shared in their suffering and worries since 1983. This never-ending suffering is like an open wound for us. Now more than ever, the Christians in Iraq need to know that Christians in the rest of the world are not leaving them alone, but are praying for them and also supporting them as much as they can. In addition to our ongoing projects, we would like to dispatch this urgent emergency aid to demonstrate this to our brothers and sisters.”

On 5 June, alleged militants of the terror organization ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) began to take over Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. Half of the inhabitants fled the city, including the entire Christian population. Jihadists continue to advance in Iraq and are taking over further cities.

Over the last five years, Aid to the Church in Need has supported Iraq with approximately 3.54 million dollars.



Journey with ACN – Latin America

13.06.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Brazil, FORMATION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need

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

This week :  Latin America


By ACN International

El Salvador

acn-20140331-06630Help for the training of eight novices of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception 

The Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception was founded in 1874 in Mexico City. Today it has over 1,100 Sisters. They have close to 150 convents in various different Latin American countries as in some African and European countries. The Sisters’ principal charism is the education of the young, the teaching of catechesis and the care of the sick and elderly.

Happily, the number of young women ready to join the congregation has been plentiful. The congregation in El Salvador currently has eight novices preparing for the Consecrated Life.

acn-20140331-06627For decades now life in this, the smallest country of Central America, has been lived against a backdrop of violence. From 1981 to 1991 a bloody civil war cost thousands of human lives. To this day, the country is plagued by violence and has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Gang warfare is a major source of insecurity, as are murders, abductions, extortion, robberies and other forms of violence which leave these people in a state of constant fear for their lives. And, as if this were not enough, the country is frequently struck by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides. Many young people see no future for themselves, and feel that life is meaningless. The Sisters have an important task here in helping young people find their way to a better future.


We are helping this year with a contribution of $5 330, for the training of eight novices who have chosen to place their lives at the service of God and their fellow men.





 Help for the training of 31 seminarians in Feira de Santana

People living in the northeast of Brazil are generally poor and often have to contend with drought conditions. As a result, many are leaving the area in the hope of finding a better life, however modest, somewhere.. elsewhere… generally finding their way to the big cities, which are growing rapidly as a result of the influx.

acn-20140124-04588Often these disillusioned and uprooted people are easy prey for the many sects that are springing up like mushrooms in the suburban slums. In some cases one can find a dense network of as many as 50 or so of their temples in a relatively small area. Their message can be an attractive one – often too good to be true – and as a result many people fall for their easy promises of instant salvation. On Mondays, there is a prayer service for material prosperity, on Tuesdays another for a good job, on Wednesdays one for health, and so forth. But so often, hope springs eternal… and so many people living in these slums continue to cling to this last illusion.

The Catholic Church is trying to address not only the visible, material needs, but to help people out of their spiritual poverty, a frequently far more urgent and devastating problem. But of course, there has to be someone there to proclaim the Good News in the first place. For the millions of Catholic faithful in Brazil (estimates vary widely, from around 130 million to 155 million) there are only 18,000 or so priests available. Generally, the parishes are enormous and some even serve over 100,000 Catholic faithful. As our Lord tells us in the Gospels, “The harvest is great, but the labourers are few” – and this is especially true of Brazil. That is why here, as in numerous other countries, helping for the formation of priests is a priority for ACN.

In the archdiocese of Feira de Santana in north-east Brazil there are currently 31 young men preparing for ordination. Archbishop Itamar Vien has their formation very much at heart. He is already looking forward to this year’s ordinations and is delighted that the number of vocations in his diocese is growing. He has once again turned to ACN for help for the studies of the 31 seminarians, counting as always on the goodwill and generosity of our benefactors. We share his confidence in you, and so we have already promised him $13 250.



Journey with ACN – The Pope visits the Holy Land

30.05.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Holy Land, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Pope, Pope Francis

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

This week :  The Pope’s Visit to the Holy Land 

“Aid to the Church in Need” and the dialogue with the Orthodox Church

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

With more than 100 million members, the Russian Orthodox Church is the largest and most influential of the Orthodox Churches. Following the wish of Pope John Paul II, “Aid to the Church in Need” has made special endeavours since 1992/93 to establish a dialogue with the Orthodox Church in Russia. Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of “Aid to the Church in Need,” traveled twice to Russia at an advanced age in 1992 and in 1994  he met Patriarch Alexy II and numerous Orthodox bishops, to whom he promised his prayers and active assistance.

After all, the Orthodox Church in Russia, like the Catholic Church, had to start from scratch after 70 years of persecution.  After the end of the Soviet Union it was the order of the day to remind Catholic Christians that the “dialogue of love” between the two Churches which the Second Vatican Council had described years beforehand as “Sister Churches” does not take place primarily on a theological and academic level, but that there is also an “ecumenism of solidarity,” as Father Werenfried called it.



Recreating Peace

The principle was clear: “After 1000 years full of misunderstandings and mutual enmity, we must all now be aware of our unity and be willing to restore it. The unity of faith and the sacraments, which was never lost. And the unity of prayer and love which we now have to achieve.” The Pope asked for detailed reports after Father Werenfried’s two Russian trips and laid great store by being kept personally informed of all developments. Pope Benedict XVI repeated this instruction to “Aid to the Church in Need”.

It was also Pope John Paul II who returned the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan to the Russian Orthodox Church.  In the turmoil of the October Revolution the icon disappeared and reached the west in 1920. After an odyssey it turned up at the New York World’s Fair. The “Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima”, now known as the “World Apostolate of Fatima”, acquired the icon and took it to Fatima. In 1993 the icon reached the Vatican as a gift to Pope John Paul II. The Pope kept it in his private quarters and showed it the deepest reverence. During the devotion on the departure of the Kazanskaya he said: “How often since that day have I called on the Mother of God of Kazan, asking her to protect and guide the Russian people who venerate her, and to hasten the moment when all the disciples of her Son, recognizing one another as brothers and sisters, will be able to fully restore the compromised unity.”

As its representative at the funeral ceremony of Pope John Paul II on 8 April 2005, the Moscow Patriarchate delegated its “Minister of External Church Relations,” Metropolitan Kirill, who was to become Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia only four years later. In the same year he also attended the enthronement on 24 April of Pope Benedict XVI, during whose pontificate contact between the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate become ever closer. Numerous Russian bishops visited Pope Benedict, and high-ranking cardinals travelled to Russia. In the summer of 2006 there also appeared in Russia a translation, supported by “Aid to the Church in Need”, of Joseph Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity”. This was intended to give the Russian public direct access to Ratzinger’s theology. The Russian translation was received with great interest.

A First for Russian Television

One of the high spots in the relationship between the Vatican and Russia was on 16 April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI’s 81st birthday, when for the first time a state television channel in Russia showed a documentary film about the Pope. The highlight of the film is an address by the Holy Father in which the Head of the Catholic Church turns to the Russian people for the first time in the history of television to express his great esteem. The message of greetings is directed at Patriarch Alexy II, the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Christians, the Catholic bishops and the Catholics in Russia, as well as all people living in Russia. Benedict XVI stresses in his address, delivered partly in Russian, the need primarily for internal Christian dialogue. The documentary film, the making of which was suggested and supported by “Aid to the Church in Need”, also showed important stations in the life and work of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI; the Russian public have to date known little about his life.

Russia: The Icon of Our Lady of Kazan (also known as "Kazanskaya

The significance of the film also became evident when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was at that time Cardinal Secretary of State of the Vatican, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, the then President of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity, arranged to be given personal reports a month after the broadcast on the positive reactions which the film had provoked in the Russian media and society at large.

AFP_061130pape-patriarche-turquie_nA letter of congratulations from Pope Benedict XVI

In 2008 a hand-written letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Patriarch Alexy II also attracted considerable attention, including in the media. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the Archbishop of Naples, delivered the letter when he visited Moscow from 30 September to 3 October at the invitation of the Patriarch. The Patriarch was evidently “much moved” by the Pope’s letter. In his reply he found warm words to say and expressed his “deepest respect and sincere good will” to the Pope. Furthermore he wrote that he was “happy about the growing perspectives for the development of good relations and a positive collaboration between our two Churches. The firm basis for this is provided by our common roots and the positions which we share with respect to the many problems the world faces today.”

On January 27, 2009 Metropolitan Kirill was elected Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. His enthronement on 1 February 2009, which took place in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, was also attended by Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Catholic Archbishop of Moscow, Paolo Pezzi, and the Bishop of Regensburg Ludwig Müller, who is today Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The representatives of the Catholic Church conveyed the letter of congratulation from Pope Benedict XVI, in which the Pope expressed his “fervent hope” for a continued collaboration “in order to find ways and forms for promoting and strengthening the community in the body of Christ”, and stressed his wish for a further strengthening of the “good relations” between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. He sent the Patriarch the gift of a chalice as “a pledge of the desire to achieve complete unity soon.”

20120529_008 HilarionA Strategic Alliance 

In the following years the concept of a “strategic alliance” formed steadily in the collaboration between the two Churches. This notion is based on the fact that both Churches see themselves confronted in the modern world with numerous challenges which they must face together. These include the plight and persecution suffered by Christians in countries where they are a minority, the need to deal with the matter of  Islam, a growing hostility towards Christianity even in Europe, the spread of secularism, relativism and materialism, and the dwindling respect, also in the political domain, for human life and the Christian family. These and numerous other ethical questions render it essential for Christians of different denominations to raise a common voice. At a large number of meetings between senior representatives of the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches over the past few years, both sides always emphasized and still emphasize complete agreement in the area of ethics and Christian values.

One of the first meetings between Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Chairman of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) took place on 19 March 2011 at a congress organised in Germany by “Aid to the Church in Need.” In retrospect the Cardinal stressed that this meeting had been “very positive” and “important” in “emphasizing the public dimension of the dialogue with the Orthodox Church and rendering the dialogue publicly visible.”

In January 2014 Cardinal Koch highlighted in a conversation with “Aid to the Church in Need” the significance of the year 2014 for ecumenism. The meeting planned for May between Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew in Jerusalem was, he said, of “the utmost importance.”

Talking about the initial large steps in the direction of unity at the time of the Second Vatican Council, he said: “When today I read the texts from that time I am amazed at the passion for unity they express. This passion must be maintained and we must reawaken our awareness of it this year.” The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity praised the commitment of “Aid to the Church in Need” to the dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and highlighted the importance of the founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, who had “dedicated himself throughout his life to the Church in Eastern Europe in particular. The fact that he extended this commitment to the Russian Orthodox Church after the collapse of the Soviet Union is very positive.”

Cardinal Koch encouraged the Catholic pastoral charity to continue cultivating the dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church.