ACN News: Rome – Pope Francis Lights a Candle for Syria

03.12.2018 in ACN International, ACN Italy, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pope, Pope Francis, Prayer, Syria

An ACN Initiative

50,000 Candles for Peace in Syria

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is launching this Christmas a campaign of prayer, aid and solidarity for the people of Syria entitled Candles for Peace in Syria. The campaign formally begins on the first Sunday of Advent, 2nd December, with the symbolic lighting of a candle by the Holy Father following the recitation of the Angelus prayer.

In the last few days the initiative has involved over 50,000 children, of different religions, from several of the Syrian cities most severely affected by the war, including Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Hassaké, Tartus and Latakia. The children have prayed and decorated candles with symbols of peace– crosses, doves and messages of hope – to convey to the world their longing for peace. For all too often the primary victims of this still ongoing conflict, have been these little Syrian children.

ACN International is calling on people of goodwill all over the world to respond to this cry of peace from the children of Syria, among other things by lighting a candle, as the Holy Father did on Sunday, in order to amplify the resonance of this clarion call for peace from the children of Syria and send out a strong message of hope during the season of Advent.


The candle which the Holy Father lit was decorated by a local craftsman from the Bab Touma quarter of the Old City of Damascus and also bears the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo, together with the logo of the campaign – a dove with outstretched wings in the shape of a child’s hand and the message “Peace for the Children of Syria 2018” – plus the regular logo of ACN International.

This is not the first time that ACN has spoken out for the children of Syria. Back in 2016 the charity made an appeal to the European Parliament, conveying to it pictures drawn by the children, expressing their longing for peace.

Canada: A Prayerful Response and Little Acts of Solidarity

“In Canada, the benefactors who receive the Mirror will be able to direct their donation as a Christmas Gift for Syria,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN.  “ We invite them to pray especially that the families of Syria may fully taste the joy of a peaceful Christmas.  We hope that the Christmases to come will be experienced in peace.”  Aid to the Church in Need has already sent 22.5 million dollars for the reconstruction in Syria which adds to the already 44 million already given since the conflict began in 2011.

ACN Press Release – Pope Francis prays for all persecuted Christians

02.03.2017 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Persecution of Christians, Pope, Pope Francis, Religious freedom

March Prayer Intentions

Pope Francis prays for all persecuted Christians

The March edition of The Pope Video*, produced by The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and supported by ACN (Aid to the Church in Need), concerns the situation of Christians persecuted and discriminated because of their faith around the world without distinction of rites or confession.

As Pope Francis has consistently reminded us at different times: “How many people are being persecuted because of their faith, forced to abandon their homes, their places of worship, their lands, their loved ones!” Solidarity with our brothers and sisters suffering discrimination, violence or persecutions for their faith, must be demonstrated.

Read the abridged Religious Freedom report here: http://bit.ly/WorldReligiousFreedom

According to the last report produced last November by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need addressing the situation of Religious Freedom in the World, Christians are the most highly persecuted religious group on earth. This fundamental human right – Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – is under serious threat in 38 countries and in 23 of these, the threat classifies as persecution.

In his prayer intention, the Holy Father calls for prayers for them: “I ask you: how many of you pray for persecuted Christians? Do it with me, that they may be supported by the prayers and material help of all the Churches and communities.”

“We thank the Holy Father for his constant concern for persecuted Christians. Aid to the Church in Need has been helping the suffering church since the beginning of its history. Unfortunately, the situation in the world has not improved over the years, the scenarios change but the suffering continues: once it was communism, today it is mainly Islamic fundamentalism. This call is more current than ever,” says Johannes Heereman, Aid to the Church in Need’s Executive President.

THE POPE’S PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR March 2017: “That persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.”


About Aid to the Church in Need

Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical charity directly under the direction by the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action. Founded in 1947 by Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.

Undertaking thousands of projects each year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelization projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.


* About the Pope Video

The Pope Video is a global initiative developed by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) to disseminate the monthly intentions of the Holy Father concerning the challenges facing humanity. The videos, created by La Machi Communication for Good Causes, seek to unite people in praying with Pope Francis for those challenges. The Project has the support of the Vatican Television Center (CTV).


About the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer)

For over a century, the Apostleship of Prayer has been disseminating to the world the prayer intentions entrusted to them by the pope of the times. Now, in its process of recreation, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network emphasizes its role of communicating these prayer intentions and leveraging new media and tools. Its mission is to unite people in prayer and service in response to the challenges facing humanity expressed by the Holy Father in his monthly intentions.

Those who participate in this network are encouraged to become apostles in daily life through a spiritual path called the “Way of the Heart,” transforming those who take that path in the service of the mission of Jesus Christ. The Apostleship of Prayer, founded in 1844, is now present in 98 countries uniting together more than 35 million people including its youth branch, the Eucharistic Youth Movement. For more information: http://www.popesprayer.net/.




Azerbaijan: A tiny community will be visited

15.09.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN Feature, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Azerbaijan, Feature Story, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Peace, Pope, Pope Francis


Pope Francis brings peace


Fourteen years after the visit of John Paul II, Azerbaijan is once again preparing for a pontifical visit. The pope will not only travel to the tiny Catholic community, but will also work towards peace in this long suffering region.  

Situated on the shores of the Caspian Sea, Baku is a very beautiful city if you ignore the large blocks of Soviet high rises grouped together at its edges. With its mix of the Orient, the capital city offers a collection from several historical periods, beginning with the old city with its narrow alleys, classical buildings and old mosques, to the Baroque city from the time of the first oil boom in the early twentieth century, all the way to the ultramodern city of the new oil boom; here, the boldest architects on Earth have given their best.

Azerbaïjan 2016: market in Baku

Azerbaïjan 2016: market in Baku



The country is rich, very rich as a matter of fact, thanks to the oil that has made it possible to shift the focus to major projects.
The “Dubai of the Caspian See” was even planning to create artificial islands, as is common practice among the rich Emirates on the Arabian Peninsula. Ninety-five per cent of its resources stem from this energy source, which means that the country has not been left unscathed by the current drop in oil prices. Large-scale projects such as the extension of the subway have been suspended while the one or other budget problem has come to light.



When the Sisters of Mother Teresa arrived in the country in 2006 to serve the poor, they were told that there were no poor in Azerbaijan! However, there are those whom the system has forgotten; these are the ones who mourn Soviet times when everyone received a subsistence wage.


Baku, «the Dubai of the Caspien Sea», where the ultrmodern and traditionnal architecture meet.

Baku, «the Dubai of the Caspien Sea», where the ultrmodern and traditionnal architecture meet.


Sunnis make up a minority in Azerbaijan with an estimated 15% to 30%. The government keeps a very close watch on any attempts at radicalization. It has probably not only remained suspicious of religion as such, but is also aware of the dangers of its expansion in view of the current situation in the Middle East.  Even though it barely makes up more than 2% of the population (9.7 millions), the second most important religion is the Orthodox faith. In the past, its followers counted barely half a million, but their numbers shrank to 200,000 when half of the Russians left the country after independence. The Orthodox Church has an eparchy with approximately fifteen parishes and maintains good relations with the Catholic Church.



A tiny minority Church


A Catholic church was built in 1912 during the time of the first oil boom, but was closed again with the arrival of the Bolsheviks in 1920 a

nd then destroyed in the early 1930s. When the Catholic Church returned in 1992, only a dozen aged followers remained of what had once been 10,000 Catholics. Today, the community has 300 native-born members (often mixed marriages) and 1,000 foreign members including 300 Filipinos: when considered in relation to the entire country, an almost symbolic presence. On average, about 500 people come together each week.

Azerbaïdjan: 95% of the inhabitants are Muslims, but the religious practice is discreet.

Azerbaïdjan: 95% of the inhabitants are Muslims, but the way to practice the religion is discreet.



Since it was initially seen as an evangelizing sect, John Paul II’s visit did wonders for the Church. For example in response to the visit, the president gave a piece of land to the Church, which is now dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. A large statue of the Virgin Mary stands directly in front of the parish and draws many people, including many Muslims and particularly women. (picture of of the top)


The Catholic Church in Azerbaijan has only a single parish with a church and a chapel that is served by six priests. This small community also includes five Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity and two Salesian nuns who are under the direction of the apostolic prefect, Msgr. Vladimir Fekete, a Salesian from Slovenia.


On May 29, 2016, the future first Azerbaijani priest was ordained to the diaconate in Saint Petersburg: this is very good news for the Church in Azerbaijan. These can probably be considered the first buds of this discreet, but truly missionary presence.   


Children holding the ACN's Bible for children. We are there to help this tiny but active community.

Children holding ACN’s Bible for children. As organization, We are there to help this tiny but active community.

Trip to Azerbaijan of ACN France in 2016

Ultramodern towers in Baku. Pope Francis is visiting Azerbaidjan between September 30 and October 2.











*Picture at the top: Catholic church in Baku, the statue of the Virgin Mary 

By Marc Fromager, ACN France
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada


Pope Francis: Support of an “exceptional kind!”

17.06.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN Intl, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Journey with ACN, Pope, Pope Francis, Press Release


Pope Francis and Aid to the Church in Need

Support of an “exceptional kind!”

Montreal, Friday, June 17, 2016 During a press conference which took place in Rome, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis is supporting the charity organization’s work. “I trust Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Pontifical Charity, to do works of Mercy all over the world,” said the Pope in a video* message recorded April 3rd, Sunday of Divine Mercy.

In Centrafrica Republic, Mgrs. Dieudonné Nzapalainga works for reconciliation, and receives the support of ACN.

In Centrafrica Republic, Mgrs. Dieudonné Nzapalainga works for reconciliation, and receives the support of ACN.

“It is an exceptional act of support in which we rejoice!” declared Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).  “The Pope has entrusted us with a mission, to be bearers of Mercy.”







“What it means for our work, is to be present for our project partners in over 140 countries.  For those who are developing pastoral projects; processes of reconciliation in Central African Republic, for example. Or to give support to religious communities who, along with nourishing the homeless, accompany these people simply by being present, as some do in Columbia.”


These last few years, local Churches are also called to respond to the most urgent needs in war torn situations and conflicts around the world. Whether in South-Sudan or in Lebanon, “Over there, the refugees are supported by Catholic religious communities.  The number of projects in this area has been explosive for a few years now,” said Ms. Lalonde


Being “God’s caress” 


The 22 ACN national offices around the world are participating in Pope Francis’ call. “I invite all of you, along with Aid the Church in Need, to do acts of Mercy, but work which will remain, a work of Mercy which is permanent,” said Pope Francis.


“Here in Canada, we will broadcast visual clips on Salt and Light Television as well as capsules on Radio VM.  We hope that people will respond in great numbers!” indicated Marie-Claude Lalonde. “Moreover, people can refer to the website made for the occasion www.acnmercy.org, where you can view the Pope’s message and become better acquainted with the work supported by ACN around the world.’’


Refugee children from Syria in Lebanon are helped already by the local Church, thanks to Aid to the Church in Need.

Refugee children from Syria in Lebanon are helped already by the local Church, thanks to Aid to the Church in Need.

As he concludes his message, the Pope surprisingly asserts the following : “Thank you for all that you do.  And do not be afraid of Mercy: Mercy, is God’s caress.”


A phrase which “inspires” considers the National Director. “Giving as way to become “God’s caress” in the world, some might find this pretentious. On the contrary, I think that this speaks to the adage which says that we must be the hands of God on earth.”


In 2015, 6,209 projects were supported in 146 countries for a total of over 159 million Canadian dollars.



Aid to the Church in Need Canada is already open to receiving donations for this special campaign, destined among others for projects in Central African Republic, Lebanon, India and Columbia.

To give, please call: 514-932-0552, toll free 1-800-585-6333, Extension 222.
On the web our secure website:

For more information: acn-aed-ca.org

 acnmercy.org, facebook.com/AidChurch,

*View the video: bit.ly/1XtNacu

Photo: Pope Francis in Philadelphia, September 2015
Grezgorz Galazka/ACN





Press release: Pope Francis supports Aid to the Church in Need

16.06.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pope, Pope Francis

Pope Francis supports Aid to the Church in Need in a new campaign

Montreal/Rome, June 16, 2016 – Tomorrow, Friday  June  17 at 1 p.m. (Rome hour), at a press conference in the Sala Marconi held in the Vatican Radio offices, the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will launch its international fundraising campaign “Be God’s Mercy” – a four month global campaign which will run from June 17 through October 4, geared toward the funding of a series of “works” of mercy throughout the world.


It is an initiative with which Pope Francis wishes to personally associate himself by inviting everyone through a video message to be shown during the conference to “carry out works of mercy together with ACN, in every part of the world, in order to meet the many, many needs of today.”


From the pastoral ministry in prisons, to addiction rehabilitation centres, to support groups for women who have suffered violence and help for refugees – these are just some of the kinds of projects Aid to the Church in Need benefactors will support. The campaign will be promoted by all of the 22 national fundraising offices of the foundation throughout the world. It will conclude in Rome on  October 4, the feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, at which time ACN will present the Pope with the “first fruits” of its campaign.


The very first benefactor of the campaign is Pope Francis himself who, prior to a recent visit by an Italian ACN delegation to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, entrusted a donation to the charity for Iraqi Christians via Italian Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi.


This gift from the Pope will be given to St Joseph’s Clinic in Erbil, which offers free medical (the picture) care to approximately 2,800 refugees of all religions. A description of this project will be given at the press conference on Friday June 17 by Father Imad Gargees, a Catholic priest who works directly with the affected Iraqi refugees. He will also show a short video about the clinic with a message of thanks to the Pope from Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda.


Pope Francis – a friend to ACN


St. Joseph medical clinic was set up by Chaldean Church in Erbil

St.Joseph clinic, hold by the Sisters of Holy Cross. It was set up by the Chaldean Church in Erbil for the refugees.

Among those present at the press conference will be international President of ACN, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, and General Secretary, Philipp Ozores. They will be received in a private audience with the Pope, together with other members of the international ACN delegation one hour before the press conference.


Among those addressing the conference, moderated by the Vatican’s own press spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, will be the compelling and authoritative witness, Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan who, for the first time in Italy will describe how the Christian communities are reacting to the tragic attack on March 27 this year when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a public park where Christians were celebrating the feast of Easter killing 76 people of which 30 were children.


Three projects in the “Be God’s Mercy” campaign will in fact be focused on Lahore, partly in the support of the victims of an earlier March 2015 attack on two churches in the Christian quarter of Youhannabad and partly to improve security measures for one of these churches, the Church of St John, and for the nearby diocesan seminary of St Francis Xavier.


The good relations between Pope Francis and ACN go back a long way. For while still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the then Cardinal Bergoglio carried out a number of projects with the help of ACN, which he described in a letter written to mark the 60th anniversary of the charity, as a “symbol of communion and fraternity with the suffering Church.” This is another reason why he wanted to associate himself with the ACN campaign of Mercy. As he explains in his video message, A“I am entrusting these works to Aid to the Church in Need.”

More on this story tomorrow on Aid to the Church in need Canada social networks: https://www.facebook.com/AidChurch

For more information about the Be God’s Mercy Campaign, please consult the multi-language website www.acnmercy.org

Thank you for participating and for sharing this message far and wide!


ACN Interview – Meeting between the Pope and Grand Imam

07.06.2016 in ACN Interview, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Oliver Maksan, By Oliver Maksan, egypt, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Interreligious Dialogue, Journey with ACN, Pope, Pope Francis


The ice has been broken

The meeting between Pope and Grand Imam received very positively in Egypt


Following the meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of the Sunni al-Azhar University, Ahmed al-Tayeb, on May 23 at the Vatican, hope soared in Egypt that the meeting would bring Christians and Muslims closer together.


“It was the first time that the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University visited the pope. It was clearly a very cordial meeting. You could see that from the body language and the familiarity between the Pope and the Grand Imam.

“We believe that this has broken the ice in the relations between the Vatican and al-Azhar University,” Father Rafic Greiche, the chief spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, said Wednesday, June 1, in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “The resumption of official dialogue, which was suspended by al-Azhar University in 2011, may not have been explicitly announced yet, but that is just a formality. I am firmly convinced that talks will resume.”

Father (Antoine) Rafic Greiche, a Greek Catholic priest and the press spokesman for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Egypt. The departure of President Morsi has been seen as ''God's miracle''.

Father (Antoine) Rafic Greiche, a Greek Catholic priest and the press spokesman for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Egypt. The departure of President Morsi has been seen by Christians as ” a God’s miracle”.


The most important Islamic institution of Egypt, which is highly respected throughout the Sunni world, had unilaterally suspended bilateral talks with the Holy See in 2011. The reason given for this was Pope Benedict XVI’s public admonition to better protect religious freedom in Egypt. Al-Azhar University considered this to be an inadmissible interference in the internal matters of Egypt. The former Pope made the statement in response to the bloody attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day in 2011 where 21 were left dead and more than 70 were wounded.


It concerns all Christians 


Father Rafic talked about the positive response to the meeting on the part of Egyptian media. “The meeting was headline news both on television as well as in the newspapers. In general, the comments were very positive.” Father Rafic then said that the encounter not only has an interreligious dimension, but also an ecumenical one. “The head of the Coptic Orthodox church, Pope Tawadros, had encouraged the Grand Imam to begin a dialogue with the Catholic Church on numerous occasions. A meeting like this and the resumption of talks naturally not only has an effect on the relationship between Muslims and Catholics, but also all Christians.”


The situation is really improving for Christians! 


Father Rafic emphasized that under the leadership of Grand Imam al-Tayeb, al-Azhar University is making an effort to reform the schoolbooks and textbooks used at the schools and institutions of higher education it oversees. “They are trying to use a new language with respect to us Christians. But there is still a lot left to be done. This is a process that will take years. However, it would be more critical to change the mindset of the imams than to change the books,” Father Rafic said.


Project trip of Agnieszka Dzieduszycka and Ilona BudzbonFather Rafic emphasized that the situation of the Christians in Egypt has vastly improved since Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted in July of 2013. “There is no comparison between the situation today and that during the government of the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, we have very good relations between church leaders and government agencies. However, there are still many problems, of course. But it is my impression that Muslims are growing more aware of our situation,” the Greek Catholic priest said. “Of course, the most pressing matter for us is the question of church building projects. This has been subject to massive restrictions up until this point. Five churches have now submitted draft legislation to parliament. President Sisi asked us to prepare a draft law. We hope that this parliamentary session will still deliberate upon and pass the draft legislation by October.


After all, we have never had as many Christian members of parliament and so many Muslims on our side. It will of course be opposed by the Salafist members. But there are not many of them. And so I am confident.”


Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting the Catholic Church in Egypt for many years. In addition to numerous pastoral projects, it also promotes the building of churches.


Project trip of Agnieszka Dzieduszycka and Ilona Budzbon


By Oliver Maksan, Aid to the Church in Need International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canadian office







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.



Journey with ACN – The Pope visits the Holy Land

23.05.2014 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 Holy Land – “Pope Francis is a real model of the priesthood”

By Oliver Maksan



When Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land, Auxiliary Bishop Marcuzzo was still only a seminarian. But to this day he remains impressed by the visit. Now, 50 years later, other seminarians are preparing for the visit of a new Pope.

Returning to the sources – this was the goal Pope Paul VI had set himself when in 1963 he revealed to the astonished Council Fathers his plan to visit the Holy Land. “The pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI was the key to the understanding of the Second Vatican Council, and conversely, it is not possible to understand his visit without the Council. The return to the beginnings, to the Holy Places of the Faith, to the simplicity of the Gospel – all these things are expressed in his pilgrimage and in the Council.” This is the conviction of Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, who was speaking recently to ACN.

A Joyful Chaos

He is the Vicar General and Representative of the Latin Patriarch in Israel, and he resides in Nazareth. An Italian by birth, he decided while still a seminarian in his home country that he wished to serve as a priest in the Holy Land. When Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land in 1964, Bishop Marcuzzo was still studying at the Catholic seminary in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. “It was a bitterly cold January day. The wind was icy. But that didn’t bother us in the least, since we were so full of joyful anticipation”, Bishop Marcuzzo recalls.



“Jerusalem had been waiting for three hours for the arrival of the Pope. It was already growing dark, and Pope Paul VI was considerably delayed. We waited for him at the Damascus Gate. My task was to carry the processional cross that was to precede the papal procession through the Old City along the road to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Eventually, he arrived.

The jubilation was really indescribable. Everybody, regardless of whether they were Christian or Muslim, rejoiced immensely at his arrival.” But things did not go quite as planned. The Jordanian police – for East Jerusalem and the Old City at that time still belonged to Jordan – had prepared everything carefully, and the procession was to have wound its way solemnly through the city. “But that’s not what happened”, says Bishop Marcuzzo with a smile. “Suddenly, chaos broke out. But not from ill will, but from joy. Everybody wanted to see the Pope and touch him. The planned, orderly procession fell apart. I was walking ahead, but at some point I turned round to see where the Pope was.”

The bishop still recalls vividly how, by the time they had reached the Third Station of the Cross, there was complete confusion. “Cardinals had heart attacks, so dense were the crowds; the Pope himself was literally being suffocated by the mass of people.” Then somebody decided to take the Pope to the convent of the Little Sisters to recover his breath, the bishop recalls. “For at least three quarters of an hour the Holy Father rested there, prayed the Rosary and spoke about the Way of the Cross. I was standing nearby with my processional cross, and I waited to see what would happen next.”

Eventually, the situation calmed down. “Suddenly, the Holy Father emerged and we continued on our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – calmly if somewhat chaotically.” Finally, the Pope arrived, very belatedly, at the place of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. There, in front of the Holy Sepulchre, he celebrated Holy Mass. Bishop Marcuzzo is still moved today by the memory. “During the celebration of Holy Mass I realised: What a man of faith and prayer this is! He appeared quite unconcerned by all the turmoil around him. The most important thing was the encounter with Jesus. He lived in an inner world. For me his homily remains unforgettable. It was a prayer to the Risen Lord.” The priestly example of Pope Paul VI that he then experienced still remains with him today, Bishop Marcuzzo told ACN.

 “This is the first time I will have been so close to the Holy Father”



Today, 50 years later, seminarians from the Holy Land will be again standing near the altar of the Pope. Joseph Sweiss is a Jordanian from the vicinity of Amman. Just as Bishop Marcuzzo once did, he too is studying theology at the seminary in Beit Jala. Along with 11 other seminarians, he was chosen by the rector of the seminary and the papal master of ceremonies to serve at the altar during the Holy Mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis in Bethlehem. “This is the first time I will have been so close to the Holy Father”, Joseph tells ACN. “For us seminarians Pope Francis is a real model of the priesthood. He gives the example of a good shepherd. For me this is very important on my personal journey to the priesthood.” His fellow seminarian, Salam Haddad, agrees with him. This young man is likewise from Jordan and is in his third year studying theology. “Pope Francis is greatly loved here in the Holy Land. I am looking forward to the privilege of soon being close to him as an altar server.” Of course he is excited, Salam admits. “After all, this is the Vicar of Christ, the Head of the Church. One cannot not be thrilled at the prospect of meeting him and serving with him at the altar. This is a blessing, especially with this Pope whom the whole world admires.”

Already, for months now, they have been praying the Rosary in the seminary for a successful outcome to the now imminent visit, the two seminarians reveal. Patriarch Fouad Twal, their bishop, has expressly urged them to do so, they tell us. And they are likewise including the Pope in their own personal prayers. Though of course they are not alone in this. “Everywhere, in the Holy Land, people are praying for Pope Francis”, Joseph says. “We are so greatly looking forward to welcoming him. We Christians are only a small minority here in the Holy Land. Hence it is important to know that the Pope is thinking of us. He will teach us how to live in respect and peace with others, how to be the salt of the earth.”



Press Release – The Nuncio in Israel explains the program for Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle East

28.03.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Holy Land, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Israel, Peace, Pope, Pope Francis

Papal visit to the Holy Land: “Not a traditional pilgrimage”

Montreal, Friday March 28, 2014  –  In view of the publication by the Vatican on Thursday of the program for the Papal visit to the Middle East, the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Delegate in the Palestinian territories, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, stressed in Jerusalem that the visit was not a conventional pilgrimage as conducted by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The journey, scheduled for 24 to 26 May would be very short and it was therefore not possible to fulfil the many expectations held, the Nuncio explained.


Rather, central to Pope Francis’ journey is the memory of a meeting fifty years ago between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, the Nuncio went on to say when he met the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. “That is the principal purpose of the Holy Father’s visit,” the Papal Envoy stressed.

First to Amman, then to Bethlehem


The Holy Father will begin his visit in Amman in the Kingdom of Jordan, the Nuncio said. After a courtesy visit to King Abdullah II, he will celebrate Holy Mass in the Amman stadium in the afternoon. For security reasons not more than 20,000 people will be able to take part. Then the Pope will go to the place on the Jordanian side of the River Jordan where Our Lord was baptized, the Nuncio continued, and there he is to meet Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as sick and disabled persons. One is talking here of about 400 selected individuals. The Nuncio said that the Pope would spend the night in the Apostolic Nunciature in Amman.

On the morning of May 25, the Holy Father is to then fly in a Jordanian helicopter directly to Bethlehem. In Bethlehem he is to be received by the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the presidential palace. The Pope will travel in an open car from there to Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, where he is to then celebrate Holy Mass. The Nuncio went on to say: “This is the only opportunity for people to see the Pope close-up. In Jerusalem this will not be possible.

“But even here he will not use an armoured vehicle. The Holy Father rejects this as a matter of principle because in his view it indicates fear and sends people the wrong message.” Unfortunately only about 10,000 people will be able to take part in the Holy Mass since Manger Square cannot accommodate more, Lazzarotto explained.

This Mass will also serve as the central ceremony for all Catholics in the Holy Land, both those from Palestine and those from Israel. “Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis will not travel to Nazareth and will also not conduct any divine services in public in Jerusalem. We will therefore have to concentrate pastorally on this Mass as best we can. But we must respect the fact that this time the prime consideration will be the meeting with the Patriarch Bartholomew.” After celebration of Holy Mass it is planned that the Pope has lunch with a number of Palestinian families in a house belonging to the Franciscans.

Welcome of the president, meeting with the Patriarch


Following a time of private prayer in the Church of the Nativity and an encounter with Palestinian refugee children, the Nuncio continued, the Pope will then fly in a Jordanian helicopter to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, where he will be officially welcomed by Israel’s President Shimon Peres.

From there the Pope will be flown in an Israeli helicopter to Jerusalem. After his arrival the Pope will initially go to the Apostolic Delegation, where he will meet Patriarch Bartholomew to sign a joint declaration. In the meantime his entourage will enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. “Thereafter the Pope will meet the Patriarch again at the entrance of the Holy Sepulchre. Symbolically both are coming from different directions in order to jointly enter the church and visit the site of the crucifixion on Calvary as well as Christ’s grave,” stated the nuncio. There, prayers are to be said and speeches will be held. When asked whether he expected concrete gestures on the part of the two church leaders, the nuncio said that this should be left to the Pope and the Patriarch to express their aspirations in this holy place.

“We must allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. I am sure that the ecumenical meeting will bear rich fruit as did that between Paul VI and Athenagoras. This will give fresh impetus to the unity of Christians, not least with a view to the pan-orthodox synod scheduled for 2016. Both will ensure that this event is not an isolated one,” the Nuncio said.

From the Temple Mount Jerusalem to the Cenacle



He went on to explain that the first day in Israel would be concluded by dinner for the ecumenical delegations in the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem’s old city. The pope would then spend the night in the Apostolic Delegacy in East Jerusalem.

According to the Nuncio Monday is to begin with a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where it is planned that the Pope will meet the Mufti of this Islamic shrine. Then the Pope is to proceed to the Wailing Wall. Pope Francis will follow the obligatory program intended for state guests to Israel. This includes a visit to the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial. “For two years now the protocol of the State of Israel has also provided for a visit to Mount Herzl, where the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, is buried. The Pope will therefore also go there,” stated the nuncio.

After meetings with the Chief Rabbis, the President and the Prime Minister the Pope will meet privately with the Ecumenical Patriarch on the Mount of Olives. It is planned that the Holy Father then meets with members of religious orders and priests in the Basilica of Gethsemane. After that, the Nuncio continued, the Pope will celebrate a private Mass with the Bishops of the Holy Land in the Room of the Last Supper, the Cenacle. “In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI was only able to recite an Angelus here,” the Nuncio added. This will conclude the Pope’s Middle East visit and he will fly back to Rome that night.

No future for Christians without peace

Meanwhile Nuncio Lazzarotto warned against having excessively high expectations in connection with the visit. “It is a mistake to assume that the Pope will be able to solve all the problems of the region simply by coming here. But his visit is a prophetic sign, and it will certainly release fresh energy in the people here and give them new hope.”

VISITE PAPE 2The Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, expressed a similar view. He told “Aid to the Church in Need” in Nazareth that the Pope would certainly address the topics of peace, reconciliation and justice. “The future of the whole region is based on this. Without peace there can be no future for us Christians,” Marcuzzo stressed. He continued that Pope Francis will certainly also mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as had Benedict XVI. “The position of the Holy See on this question is clear. We do not get involved in politics. The parties to the conflict must come to an agreement. But the Church stresses justice and human rights.” According to Marcuzzo the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the mother of all conflicts in the region.

The Bishop criticized the fact that under the new Israeli protocol the Pope will have to visit Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. “The visit to the grave of the founder of Zionism could project a bad image to the Arab world.” In any case, Marcuzzo views Israel’s perception of itself as a Jewish state critically. “This automatically makes Christians and Muslims second-class citizens.”

Israel is also sending contradictory signals, he added. On the one hand it is conducting a dialogue with non-Jews, and on the other there is a lot of discrimination. It has to be said, however, that Pope Francis is regarded very positively in Israel. “The Pope is being accompanied by a Rabbi and an Imam,” Marcuzzo continued, “and that is a good sign.”

Syria – Syria is not just a map on google earth

06.09.2013 in ACN Canada, Pope, Prayer, Syria

Marta Petrosillo, ACN Italy

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“A military intervention will not achieve anything. Each of the parties involved must understand that the crisis will not be resolved in the way it desires. All are losers and no one is victor, and will never be.” Father Nawras Sammour, responsible for the Middle East and North Africa in the Jesuits’ Refugees Service, condemned a possible military action in Syria.

Speaking on the telephone from Damascus to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the religious, born in Aleppo, said that “an attack could lead indisputably to an increase in violence: a terrible escalation which will compel its extension to neighboring countries, contaminating the whole Middle Eastern region.” The Jesuit finds the crisis too complex to be resolved by a military operation, of which no one can foresee the long term results.

Meanwhile in the Syrian capital, often deprived of electricity, “all live in expectation, although life continues in general as before the threat of war.” There is no unanimous opinion on the eventuality of an intervention, but many have begun to store food and in the last two weeks, those that had the possibility have left the country. “Those, like me, who wish instead to stay in Syria, avoid going abroad for fear of being blocked given the hostilities. Together with some brothers we have just cancelled a trip to Lebanon precisely for this reason,” he said.

“More than ever we are in need of prayer”

20110718_024The Jesuits are helping more than 17,000 Syrian families, 80% of which are Muslim. Pope Francis words are of great comfort for Christians. “The Holy Father’s appeal was excellent,” said Father Sammour, stating that also in Syria many will take part in the Day of fast called by the Pontiff for September 7. In the Jesuits’ House in Damascus, it will begin with Vespers tomorrow evening. “Now more than ever we are in need of prayer,” added the religious, praising the many initiatives of the universal Church to promote peace, not least the Week of Prayer organized by ACN, which will also adhere to the Day of fast next Saturday.

The Pope’s words were not only appreciated by the Christian community. The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, expressed the hope of being able to pray next Saturday in Saint Peter’s Square. “Pope Francis’ language included anyone who supports the values of peace and integration and, fortunately, many Syrians love and respect their fellow nationals, of whatever creed or social extraction, notwithstanding the information spread by the media that lead one to believe the opposite,” said Fr. Sammour. He criticized the media for “always hunting extremists,” and opposed to this the beautiful work of the Church, which tries to give voice to the desire for unity of the “silent majority” of the nation.

While waiting to see what will happen in the next few days, Father Sammour asks the international community to look at his country with less superficiality. “Syria isn’t a map on Google earth. It’s not a territory to invade or liberate. It’s not merely a place but a wonderful mosaic. Syria is first of all an ensemble of people: the Syrians. And I hope that this will finally be taken into consideration.”