International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need


Journey with ACN – Syria

12.12.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Sisters, Syria

© Aid to the Church in Need

JOURNEY WITH ACN is  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 helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :  Syria

A well for a Senior’s residence run by the Vincentian Sisters 

“Our survival is at stake” 

Over a century ago, in 1860, the St Vincent de Paul Society was first established in Lebanon. The city of Aleppo has also been home to the Vincentian Sisters who have been an active presence in Syria since the year 1898. But never in all their history have they ever faced so many difficulties or had to endure such catastrophic circumstances as they do now.

Sister Ella Bitar wrote to us from Lebanon on behalf of her fellow sisters in Syria who are still very much cut off from the rest of the world. “The survival and the continued existence of the Saint Mansour Charity Association (as the St Vincent de Paul Society is known here, for legal reasons) is at stake,” and tied to its survival, the fate of 31 residents and a staff of 10 at a senior’s residence in Aleppo.

At one time, they were happy and content in their large house found at Aleppo’s Old City centre. They had everything they needed – three meals a day and the careful loving nursing and medical care the Sisters provided. These seniors had the opportunity to attend Holy Mass at home and would sit outside on the roof, relax, and take in the open air – that is, until the snipers moved in. Fortunately, so far, the only damage has been to the house itself, and no harm has come to the residents, nor to the staff.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

However, another immense problem they are facing, on account of the current embargo, is securing basic provisions. Prior to the war, around 150 – 300 Syrian pounds (around $7.50) a day was enough to feed and care for each resident. But today, the cost has risen to 2,500 – 3,500 (around $23) per day. Only a few streets in this city have provisions such as food for sale since the sale of goods was fully under the control of the terrorists for a very long time. The army only recently liberated these streets making them accessible to the population.

Most of the time, the senior’s home uses its own generator for power since the supply of electricity has become quite unreliable and fuel prices have exploded – fuel and oil are vital for heating in winter in this part of the world and  are also used for running generators.

The most effected and serious part of the homes’ needs is in fact the water situation. For example in May of this year, the water supply was completely cut-off for 12 whole days. The residents survived on the mineral water– at the cost of extra effort, expense and worry.

So that they can be independent of the public water supply, the Vincentian Sisters would like to drill their own well. It will require a borehole of 100 – 150 metres in depth (300 to 450 feet) and it will cost anywhere from $17- $23 per metre. “It is simply impossible to predict this more accurately in these uncertain times,” writes Sister Ella being realistic. No help can be expected from anywhere in the region. “Our sources of income are dwindling. The wealthier people have already left Aleppo, and indeed the country altogether.”

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
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 We would like to help the Sisters and relieve them of this worry, they still need $3,500.

A Seminarian’s Story – Meet Martin Baani

30.10.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq

All projects underway adding up to a total amount of 5.77 million CAN – one of the largest efforts in ACN’s history – shows the scale of the drama experienced by our Iraqi brothers and sisters.  If our partners recognize us for our support, we still know that they are far from the end of this unspeakable catastrophe. The threat remains and the fragility of their hearts no less persistent.

This is why we still your help to continue supporting our brothers and sisters of the Middle-East trapped and forced to seek refuge elsewhere in their country… if not in another.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director


Martin Baani – a seminarian’s story

John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

As IS approached, he took the Blessed Sacrament from the church and fled

Bombs fall and the sound of the explosion sends shock and fear into the hearts of the people.

Amid the sound of crying and frenzied activity, people pack up what belongings they can carry and make off into the night.

In the midst of it all stands Martin Baani, a 24-year-old seminarian.

The realisation is dawning on him that this is Karamlesh’s last stand.

For 1,800 years, Christianity has had a home in the hearts and minds of the people of this village, full of antiquity. Now that era is about to be brought to a calamitous end; Islamic State are advancing.

ACN-20141015-14668Martin’s mobile phone rings: a friend stammers out the news that the nearby town of Telkaif has fallen to “Da’ash” – the Arabic name for Islamic State.  Karamlesh would surely be next.

Martin dashes out of his aunt’s house, where he is staying, and heads for the nearby St Addai’s Church. He takes the Blessed Sacrament, a bundle of official of papers and walks out of the church. Outside a car awaits – his parish priest, Fr Thabet, and three other priests are inside.

Martin gets in and the car speeds off. They leave Karamlesh and the last remnants of the village’s Christian presence go with them.

Speaking to Martin in the calm of St Peter’s Seminary, Ankawa, it is difficult to imagine he is describing anything except a bad dream.

But there is nothing dreamy in Martin’s expression. “Until the very last minute, the Pashmerga [the Kurdish armed forces protecting the villages] were telling us it was safe.

“But then we heard that they were setting up big guns on St Barbara’s Hill [on the edge of the village] and we knew then the situation was very dangerous.”

Taking stock of that terrible night of 6th/7th August, Martin’s confidence is bolstered by the presence of 27 other seminarians at St Peter’s, many with their own stories of escape from the clutches of the Islamic militants.

Martin and his fellow students for the priesthood know that the future is bleak as regards Christianity in Iraq.

A community of 1.5 million Christians before 2003 has dwindled to less than 300,000. And of those who remain, more than a third are displaced. Many, if not most, want a new life in a new country.

Martin, however, is not one of them. “I could easily go,” he explains calmly. “My family now life in California. I already have been given a visa to go to America and visit them.”

“But I want to stay. I don’t want to run away from the problem.”

Martin has already made the choice that marks out the priests who have decided to stay in Iraq; his vocation is to serve the people, come what may.


“We must stand up for our rights; we must not be afraid.” He explains. Describing in detail the emergency relief work that has occupied so much of his time, it is plain to see that he feels his place is to be with the people.

Martin is already a sub-deacon. Now in his final year of theology, ordination to the priesthood is – God willing – but a few months away.

“Thank you for your prayers,” says Martin, as I take my leave of him. “We count on your support.”

Aid to the Church in Need is committed to supporting Martin and all the seminarians at St Peter’s Seminary, Ankawa as they make their journey to the Altar of God and prepare to serve God and their suffering people as priests.


Aid to the Church in Need announces 12 urgent aid packages for Iraq to help the thousands of displaced Iraqi Christians. They are to receive food, shelter, schooling and gifts for children in a concerted emergency relief program rushed through by a Catholic charity before the onset of winter. The 4 million Euros scheme announced by Aid to the Church in Need – one of the largest in the charity’s 67-year history – also includes pastoral support for priests and Sisters displaced by the crisis that has swept the country.

IRAQ – Our people have been abandoned

07.10.2014 in ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq

Government accused of leaving displaced Christians to their fate

The Government of Iraq is guilty of not helping Christians desperate to flee Islamic State (IS) militia, according to a leading Catholic bishop from the country. Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said Iraq’s national government in Baghdad “has done nothing, absolutely nothing” for 120,000 Christians seeking sanctuary away from areas terrorized by the extremists.

By ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada




Archbishop Warda said displaced Christians in his diocese and the nearby Dohuk region were becoming increasingly concerned for the future two months after leaving their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plains.  As IS forces advanced, they fled at a moment’s notice and leaving behind all their belongings.

The archbishop went on to state that Muslim leaders had failed to give an unequivocal condemnation of the violence carried out in the name of Islam which had resulted in the ejection of all Christians from their ancient Biblical homeland.

In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Bashar Warda said: “The reality is that Christians have received no support from the central government. They have done nothing for them, absolutely nothing.”

Usually, the central government is the first to take responsibility for helping people forced to leave their homes. The central government is to blame,” he said, adding: “It has not fulfilled its commitment to the people.” He also said: “The government in Baghdad received a lot of help from the international community for the displaced people from Mosul and Nineveh but there has been no sign of it here.” He said Baghdad was helping Muslim displaced people but not Christians. The Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil had made it clear from the start of the crisis that it could offer no financial assistance because since January 1, 2014, it had stopped receiving subsidies from Baghdad.


Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona , Chaldean Archbishop of Mossul, fled his City together with 5000 Christians. He found refuge where he is also receiving Muslim refugees. Here: Patriarch Louis Raphael I. Sako and Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona with refugees.


“Aiding Christians has fallen exclusively to the Church”

Archbishop Warda, who alongside other bishops has coordinated a relief program of food and emergency housing for the displaced people, said the task of aiding Christians had fallen almost exclusively to the Church.He praised organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need which is providing emergency food, accommodation and other basic help for displaced Christians. “We will never forget the voices of solidarity that we received from day one of this tragedy. Church agencies have been here helping us since day one and they remain with the people long after the headlines have moved on to something different,” said the archbishop.

Referring to the response of Muslim leaders to the IS attacks on minority communities, Archbishop Warda said: “We have not had a clear denunciation of [IS] from Muslim leaders.”

He said Muslim leaders seemed concerned only with how the attacks had undermined Islam’s international reputation.

“Not just a shock. It is for us genocide”

In a further criticism of the Muslim community, he cited examples of Muslims in Mosul who had committed atrocities against their Christian neighbours. He said one Catholic from Mosul had described watching video footage of a man he recognized as his friend and neighbour pulling down the cross of a church rendered empty by the evacuation of Christians.

“We visit the tents everyday and speak to the people we are helping and they say they would like to go back to their homes immediately but how can you live among the people who were your neighbours when they have betrayed you?” Archbishop Warda said a Christian man displaced from Mosul received a telephone call from a neighbour who told him he had entered his house and without permission had taken his cash and given half to IS and kept the rest for himself.

Quoting instances of long-time Muslims neighbours looting the homes of Christians who had fled their homes, Archbishop Warda said many of his faithful felt “betrayed” and were now more likely to flee the country.  “The crisis concerning Christians in Mosul and Nineveh is not just a shock. It is for us genocide. All voices have acknowledged that it was a crime against humanity.”

© ACN Christian refugees from Mossul

Christian refugees from Mossul




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PRESS RELEASE: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia – Church active in fight against Ebola

02.10.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Gambia, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Liberia, Sierra Leone


Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada


 Montreal, Thursday October 2, 2014 – In Catholic parishes throughout Liberia, the threat arising from the spread of the Ebola virus and the potential for prevention are being discussed more and more – the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” received confirmation of this from the Apostolic Nuncio for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia.


In his message, Archbishop Adamczyk wrote: “Sunday´s Masses were a good occasion to explain to the people about prevention. Since the beginning of the month of August, in front of every public place, and in front of many private houses, it is possible to find a container with a solution of water and chlorine for washing the hands. The same is offered before entry into every church.”

The Nuncio described how the Catholic Church is also endeavouring to give support to all families with members who have been infected with Ebola or who must lament the death of loved ones due to the disease. “However, the Church cannot take care of the sick persons. To do this, it is necessary to be prepared and to have special protective supplies. It has been noted that the number of the health workers who have become infected is very high: 166 persons, already 80 of these have passed away,” Archbishop  Adamczyk continued. He also mentions that the deceased include a large number of women and men in religious orders.


According to Archbishop Adamczyk, it is hardly possible to assess the economic and social consequences of the Ebola virus on Liberia. Many people no longer have a regular income since companies and businesses have closed down due to the epidemic.


The prices are rising, he said, but the people are not receiving basic state provisions. “The hospitals and all the schools are closed. The Ebola epidemic may cause economic crises and social unrest,” explained the Nuncio.


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.



Journey with ACN – Cameroon

19.09.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Cameroon, FORMATION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

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 helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :  Cameroon


Help for the training of 11 novices of the Sisters of Saint Anne

The Congregation of Saint Anne was founded in 1834 in the Italian city of Turin. Today the Sisters of Saint Anne work not only in a number of European countries, but also in India, the Philippines, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, the United States and Cameroon, in central West Africa.

The sisters have been working in Cameron for 27 years now, and the congregation currently has 74 native African sisters in this country. They have nine convents in Cameron, in four different dioceses. But more and more bishops are asking if the Sisters of Saint Anne could settle in their dioceses as well. In fact, two more houses are already planned for the near future.

The sisters’ work is above all with children and young people, with single mothers and young girls who have broken off their schooling and who “bear only sadness in their hearts and are helpless in the face of the dangers of the world, which seeks to deceive them with false values”, as the sisters themselves put it in their letter to us. In addition to this work, they have also established a “Divine Mercy Centre” where they help people who have fallen victim to the occult and witchcraft – practices that are widespread in many parts of Africa. It is likewise a place of refuge and help for women who have been traumatised by abortion or whose families have been broken up. The sisters also care for young offenders, and in the remote villages, where there are no medical facilities, they look after people suffering from malaria and other tropical diseases, as well as the victims of HIV/ AIDS.

The congregation is rich in vocations. The formation house of the sisters is in the diocese of Bamenda, in Northwest Province. At present there are 11 novices undergoing training there. And there are also other young girls who would like to enter the community and devote their lives to the service of God and the needy.

It is not easy for the community to raise the necessary means to provide these young sisters with a solid formation. Yet this is an urgent necessity, if these young women are to remain firm in their vocation and also be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to fulfil the many different duties they will have to tackle. In order to earn a little income, the sisters engage in small-scale agricultural activities, and at the same time they make rosaries and Christmas cards. But the income they receive from this is nowhere near enough to cover their costs. And so they have turned to ACN for help for the training of their 11 novices. We have promised them $5,660.


Journey with ACN – Sarajevo

15.09.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Bosnia Herzegovina, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

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 helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :  Bosnia-Herzegovina

Belgium, Brussels 04.10.2012Cardinal Vinko Puljic (Archbishop o

Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo ©ACN

 A growing pressure on Catholics in Sarajevo

One hundred years ago the First World War began. The event that triggered it was the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. So what is the situation of Christians in Bosnia and Herzegovina today? What sort of help is coming from Europe? These questions were put to Cardinal Vinko Puljic, the Archbishop of Sarajevo.

How have things evolved for Catholics over the last hundred years?

According to our statistics, there were 458,990 Catholics living in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1914. Before the Second World War there were 640,501 and before the most recent 1991 war, statistics indicate there were 812,256 Catholics. Twenty years later, only 443,084 remain – that is almost half as many.  Catholic families were always the first schools of faith. But as a result of the war of 1991, many families were forced to flee.  After the war, it was mainly older people returned home. The politicians are making no effort to encourage the return of Catholics. So today, there is a lack of younger families and therefore of spiritual vocations.


Do Christians of today have more freedom than one hundred years ago?

Under Ottoman rule, the Christians were discriminated against. After that – 100 years ago that is – there began a time of tolerance. The Church structures were established, including schools, churches and cathedrals. Today, the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a bridge between East and West, both culturally and religiously. On this path of dialogue the education provided by Catholic schools plays an important role.

That is also the purpose of the John Paul II Youth Center with its programs to help young people develop their own sense of identity. There is so much that we can do together for the welfare of everyone. Many Muslims also share this same spirit of solidarity. However, since the recent war of 1992-1995, the relationship has changed. The influence of Arab countries has become stronger. Radicalization is gaining ground. Even older Muslims, who have always lived side by side with the Christians, are disturbed by this. But money is what counts, especially in politics. Moreover, there is a legal insecurity, particularly for the Catholics.


Do Christians receive help from Europe?

It varies greatly. To give two examples: when the Serbian Orthodox Church in Mostar began rebuilding the damaged Orthodox churches, all the international bodies supported them. The same thing was true of the Orthodox Church in Sarajevo. When the Muslims began the renovation of their mosque in Banja Luka, they were given support by the American government. But when we Catholics asked for help, we were told that they did not support churches, only cultural monuments. Is not the Catholic Church also a part of the country’s culture? It is the same story with the support for returning refugees: for the others there was plenty – for Catholics there is little or nothing.


How is the region recovering from the terrible flooding this spring?

Forty parishes within my archdiocese were flooded. In twenty of them the damage was severe. The initial wave of solidarity was tremendous, but it was a matter of basic survival. Now it is about getting on with life. Livestock was decimated; farm buildings, houses and furniture were destroyed. Many people simply lack the strength to rebuild again from scratch. The state has failed them. No one is bothering about the plague of flies, or repairs for the broken river dikes. But the biggest problem is the creation of jobs and economic development. How are we supposed to live?       


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To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
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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
To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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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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