Aid to the Church in Need Tag


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 Project of the Week – A Pastoral Centre in Lebanon

15.06.2016 in ACN International, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, CONSTRUCTION, Lebanon


A pastoral centre in Maalaka


More and more Christians are leaving the Middle East. It is an exodus that no longer affects Syria and Iraq alone anymore, but also touches Lebanon. This country, which in the quite recent past was the only country in the Middle East with a Christian majority, now has a steady dwindling Christian minority.


Saint André's parish in Maalaka

Saint André’s parish in Maalaka

This wave of emigration by Christians from the Middle East is repeatedly described as a “tsunami.” Patriarch Gregorios III, the head of the Melkite Catholic Church in Lebanon itself, wrote an open letter to young people last August, in which he said: “The general wave of emigration among young people, especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Iraq, breaks my heart, wounds me deeply and is like a death blow to me. What future does the Church have in the face of such a tsunami of emigration? What will become of our homeland? What will happen to our parishes and Church establishments?”


In Lebanon at least, the Church is attempting to hold back this tsunami by building new churches and parish centres. For it is evident that wherever people feel sufficiently rooted in their parish communities they are less likely to leave and more likely to stay, and why working with children and young people is paramount.


In Maalaka, around 7 km from the town of Zahleh, and not far from the Lebanese/Syrian frontier, the Melkite Catholic faithful have built a new church, dedicated to St Andrew. They spent 10 years fundraising and making great sacrifices to do so.


Currently there are around 650 Lebanese families here with on average 2 to 3 children in each. Then there are 60 families who have fled in recent years from Syria to seek refuges on Lebanese soil. Overall, there are approximately 3,200 people living in the parish – well over half of whom are children and young people.


LEBANON / ZAHLEH-MLC 15/00020 Construction of parish center in favour of St Andre parish, Maalaka


Now, they are planning to build a pastoral centre right here, beneath the church, with the hope of breathing new life into the community.  They hope it will provide a place where the people will gather together as a community, whether in a spirit of celebration or in mourning.

Every kind of ceremony and festivity will be held here –weddings, baptisms and funeral; gatherings, catechesis, youth movements, educational courses and social programs. The centre will also be crucial in its work of caring for the children of Syrian refugees and helping them become more fully integrated within Lebanese society.


ACN has promised help of $72,500 CAD for the creation of this pastoral centre.  Thank you for helping us support Christians who want to stay home, in the Middle-East.







ACN Project of the Week – Armenia

01.06.2016 in Uncategorized


A Sunday school program for children in Arik 


Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Armenia in June of this year. The Armenians are proud that as early as in the fourth century, Christianity was declared the state religion in their country, and thereby making it arguably the oldest Christian nation in the world.

Close to 95% of the population today belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church which, like the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, belongs to the family of the Oriental Orthodox churches. The Eparchy of Artik gives great importance to the religious education of its children because of media influences and negative tendencies in society making it essential to establish strong Christian values and the Christian faith in these children in a way that would give them firm roots in the life of the Church. So, two years ago, a Sunday school program designed to run for two years was established in the town of Artik and in 10 villages nearby.

A great success!

Some 280 children took part in this program! Bible stories, religious hymns and songs, the lives of the saints, the major Church feasts and the history of Christianity in Armenia were all covered by the program, as were various ethical topics. But there were also many leisure activities offered, with games and good fun for all. During the summer and autumn months five separate pilgrimages were organized to various holy shrines around the country. In addition, information days for  parents of the children were held.

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to contribute $13,050 CAD towards the cost of this project. The vicar of the Eparchy of Artik, Narek Avagan, has written to express his heartfelt thanks to you all, on behalf of all the children who took part, of their parents and of the entire Eparchy. The Sunday school program was a huge success and will undoubtedly be continued.

To donate to this or to a similar project – please do so on-line on our new secure donation page. 

If you would prefer to call us, or write to us – our contact information can be found here.donate



ACN Press – Syria: A Bishop’s plea

26.05.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN PRESS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By John Pontifex, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org, Religious freedom, Syria

Cover picture – Bishop Antioine Chbeir, Maronite Bishop in Syria with Head of Middle East Projects for ACN – Father Halemba


A Bishop’s plea as blasts cause carnage 

A diocese rallies in support of wounded and the grieving

Bishop warns of exodus following bomb blasts


In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, a Maronite Bishop in Syria has described the desperate efforts made to tend to the injured and the dying following multiple Daesh (ISIS) attacks in Tartous and Jableh, which left more than 200 dead and nearly 650 injured.


Bishop Antoine Chbeir stressed that Monday’s (May 23) attacks in his diocese were the first of their kind in an area where displaced Syrians had gathered in their hundreds of thousands, believing it to be one of the last remaining safe areas of the country.


Tartous_Maronite Cathedral_Maronite Bishop Geroges Chbier

Tartous_Maronite Cathedral_Maronite Bishop  Chbier


The Maronite Bishop of Latakia described the desperate efforts of clergy and others from the diocese helping the wounded and the dying, saying that Tuesday, (May 24) his priests had begun burying the dead.


Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need by telephone, Bishop Chbeir said: “We are trying to help the people and are taking care of the wounded. It is a very dramatic situation and when the disaster struck we wondered if we could cope.

“Right now, our priests and people are on the scene. They are visiting the people – many of them have broken legs and deep wounds, not to mention the psychological effects.”


Near to a another exodus?


In a government-controlled area which has escaped almost completely unscathed in spite of five years of war, the bishop warned that the attacks on the two coastal cities, said to be perpetrated by Daesh (ISIS), may prompt a surge in people fleeing Syria.  According to the bishop, there were five explosions in Jableh killing 110 people and wounding 340 while on the same day at around 9.30am in Tartous, four blasts went off leaving more than 100 dead and 300 injured.


1 Syria ChbeirThe bishop, who recalled hearing the attacks in Tartous which took place less than two miles from his home, said: “These attacks are the first we have had here during this time of war and they will have dramatic consequences. If you do not have safe areas in Syria, they will leave the country – probably for good… Many of them will go by sea.”The bishop spoke of the desperate need to rebuild hope. “Today, we are more determined than ever to stay in Syria. Every time we have a bombing, we will do whatever it takes to stay in the country where we are living.”


The bishop, who is a leading project partner for Aid to the Church in Need in the region, said that his response to the crisis builds on the foundations of existing ACN help for thousands of displaced people in the region, providing them with food, shelter and medicine. “First of all, we need physical and material help, just to help those affected to have something to eat and to help them take care of those who are suffering the most,” he emphasized.


Aid to the Church in Need Canada is continuing to accept donations for the displaced refugees in Syria. To make a donation: Please call: 514.932-0552, extension 221 or visit the website at secure.acn-aed-ca.org.


“We care for people not because of their particular religion but because they are human beings” adding that the people’s needs had increased because the Syrian economy was failing with food and other basic items in short supply.


“Tartous is in [a desperate state]. In the last two weeks, the Syrian currency has lost 40 percent of its value. The Syrian state has no income. It is always spending. The economic sanctions against Syria are really affecting the people,”the Bishop continued. “In this month of May, we are praying to Our Lady to help us. Thank you to Aid to the Church in Need for standing by us.”


Turning criminals into human beings


The bishop denounced the attack, confirming reports that it was perpetrated by Daesh (ISIS): “ISIS are barbaric people. The worst thing about it is that they are doing these awful things in the name of God. In the name of God, they are killing people everywhere.” But the bishop said retaliation was not the answer. “We must call for peace’” he said. “We must not kill these criminals. We must turn the criminal into a human being who cares for human life.”


Reports from the region state that Daesh’s apparent aim was to strike the Assad regime in its core stronghold, which is backed by the nearby Russian fleet.




By John Pontifex, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canadian office



ACN Project of the Week – Sarajevo

18.05.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bosnia Herzegovina, SEMINARIANS, Uncategorized


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Help for the training in Sarajevo

The Bosnian war raged from 1992 to 1995 and at that time approximately half the Catholic Croats in the country were forced to leave and seek refuge abroad. Today, there are only around 450,000 Catholics still living in the country.


While it is true that, at 15%, they make up the third-largest group, in this majority Muslim country they are discriminated against in many ways. This is preventing many of the families who fled during war-time from actually returning to their former true homes.

Catholic Church is playing an important role in spite of the difficult situation they are faced with. In fact, their presence is more important than it ever has been in Sarajevo to assist in the process of reconciliation and healing after the war, since there are still many open and painful wounds in society. The Church is very active and lively –the evidence of which can be found in the heartening number of vocations.


Des jeunes de l'archidiocèse de Sarajevo témoignes à leur foi en 2011

Youth from the diocese of Sarajevo testifying to their faith in 2011

In the seminary in the Archdiocese of Sarajevo there are 44 young men training for the priesthood. They have come from all three dioceses in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as from Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo. However this seminary is dependent on outside support in order to fund the training of these future priests for the running costs are high and the Church in this country, as in many others,  is still greatly dependent on outside support. Many churches and other Church properties were destroyed during the war and so there are many churches, presbyteries and religious houses that have had to be rebuilt at considerable cost.





Although the seminary does everything it possibly can to cut down on costs and, for example, the seminarians themselves do many of the smaller renovations and repairs on the building, it is in urgent need of help.


donateACN is helping for the training of the 44 seminarians in the current academic year, with a contribution of $1,305 CAN per seminarian – or, with a grand total of $57,420 CAN.






Project of the Week – 5,000 Child’s Bibles for Pakistan!

04.05.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AED Canada, Pakistan, Projets pastorale

20120109_010 PAKISTAN KARACHIPakistan

5,000 copies of Child’s Bibles in the Urdu language


Christians in Pakistan face all kinds of discrimination, harassment and oppression. Most of these Christians are from the poorest and lowliest sections of society and they must stand up to all sorts of difficulties standing in the way of their social advancement.


Usually  Christians perform the most menial tasks.  They are the road sweepers or domestic helpers. Most of them would like to see their children have better lives, but their hopes are often frustrated by the fact that Muslims generally receive more favourable treatment and have better opportunities than they, even with the same level of education. While for the poorer Christian families, even sending their children to school in the first place involves great deal of financial sacrifice. Often their mothers and older sisters have to go to work, in order to be able to cover the school fees.


Most families have many children, and these children are seen as a gift from God and a sign of hope for the future. The parents are proud to see their children get a good education, though most cannot read or write themselves, and so they can do little to help their children.


When Christian children are sent to a state school, they often find themselves pressured to renounce their faith. And so, in order to root them more deeply in their own faith, most attend school first in their own parishes, in one of the many Sunday schools where they can grow in their faith. They pray and sing together and come to better know the Good News of the Gospel.


With great enthusiasm, they re-enact some of the Bible stories as theater performances. In this way they not only enhance the beauty of the great feasts but also help their parents, who for the most part cannot read the Bible themselves, to better know and understand the Bible stories.


The Sisters of Saint Paul, a congregation very much involved in the media apostolate, have been active in Pakistan since 1965 and have produced a wide range of religious and catechetical literature. Now they would like to produce a little Bible for children that will contain not only Bible stories but also short prayers. The idea is to use this book in the Sunday schools and in the religious education classes of the Catholic schools.


“Once the children are well grounded in their faith, the parents are less afraid of sending them to the state schools,”the Sisters report. For then there is less danger that they will Child's Biblebe deflected from their faith.

ACN has promised a contribution of $9,425 CAN towards the cost of printing 5,000 copies of this book.



To donate to this or to a similar project – please do so on-line on our new secure donation page. If you would prefer to call us, or write to us – our contact information can be found here





28.04.2016 in ACN International




On April 29, at 8 pm, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome will turn red – for the first time in its history. (Fontana di Trevi si tingerà di rosso). The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has organized this event as a way of visibly commemorating the thousands of Christian martyrs of modern times who today, in even greater numbers than in the early centuries of the Church, have shed their blood for Christ, murdered in odium fidei.

Brazil, Rio de Janeiro Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) looks down on Rio de Janeiro

Brazil, Rio de Janeiro
Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) looks down on Rio de Janeiro

By means of this unique initiative, the Italian national office of ACN hopes to draw attention to the dramatic issue of anti-Christian persecution. A similar initiative was staged in October 2015, when the Brazilian national office of ACN illuminated in red the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. “The systematic violation of the right to religious freedom, above all that of Christians, ought to be a central issue in the public debate”, say the president of ACN Italy, Alfredo Mantovano, and its national director, Alessandro Monteduro, “in order to avoid the danger of indifference and the consequent prolonging of this intolerable suffering.”



Standing up for Religious Freedom 

Mauro cardinal Piacenza, président d'Aide à l'Église en Détresse.

Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, President of Aid to the Church in Need

Ever since its origins in 1947, the charity ACN – now a pontifical foundation of the Catholic Church – has stood up for those persecuted for the sake of their Christian faith. This commitment has found powerful expression since 1999 in the publication of the report by ACN on Religious Freedom Worldwide, the next edition of which will be published on November 15 this year. However, as Mantovano and Monteduro observe, “The content of the report will be of little value if it does not become our common patrimony, if it does not shake our consciences and produce a widespread public reaction in support of the countless victims of persecution who cannot speak for themselves.”

A number of different organizations and agencies in Italy and elsewhere have expressed their support for the initiative. For example, the community of Sant’Egidio, the movement Comunione e Liberazione, the Focolare movement and the organisation Rinnovamento nello Spirito Santo, along with media agencies such as Avvenire, Catholic News Agency/Aciprensa and Romereports. The event will also be broadcast live by the television channel of the Italian bishops’ conference, TV2000.

The event will begin with an introduction by the President of ACN Italy, Alfredo Mantovano, and an address by the international president of ACN, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza.


 Personal accounts of Christians killed 

This will be followed by four invited guests giving personal accounts of Christians killed on account of their faith.

A Sister from the Missionaries of Charity, the Sisters of Mother Teresa, will speak of the four nuns of this congregation murdered in Yemen on March 4 of this year.

The Pakistani Minister for the Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, will be remembered by his friend Professor Shahid Mobeen, the founder of the Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy.

Then Maddalena Santoro will speak about her brother, Father Andrea Santoro, who was murdered in Turkey in 2006. And finally, a student from Kenya, Luka Loteng, will pay homage to the Christian students murdered in Garrisa in April 2015.



We remember the Sisters of Charity in Yemen


Shahbaz Bhatti

We remember : Pakistani Minister for the Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti



mons. audo copie

Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria

Following these four interventions, the Trevi Fountain will turn red and will form the backdrop to the testimony given by Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria.


The evening will conclude with the recital of the prayer of Pius XII for the persecuted Church. Following this, and throughout the night, images of anti-Christian persecution will be projected onto a Trevi Fountain stained with the blood of the Christian martyrs.



[Further information (in Italian) at: acs-italia.org/fontanaditrevi]



Earthquake in Ecuador #PrayForEcuador

21.04.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Ecuador, Emergency Aid

Earthquake in Ecuador

“Funerals in the streets”

Many Ecuadorians experienced the earthquake in churches because “it was the hour of the Mass”

An odor of decomposition and combustion floats in the streets of the Ecuadorian city of Portoviejo. People desperately ask for water, food and blankets. No one is sleeping in his house, even those whose houses are still standing. In an interview with the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Walter Coronel, missionary Fidei Donum in the Archdiocese of Portoviejo said through tears: “We are afraid that the earth is still shaking.”


It is 11 am in San Gregorio de Portoviejo. The thermometer reads 33 degrees. It is winter in the capital of the province of Manabi. Several days before the earthquake, heavy rain had hammered down for over twelve hours, forcing hundreds of people to leave their homes. Originally from Portoviejo, the missionary had gone there a few days, leaving the activities it is conducting in the Ecuadorian Amazon.


Fr. Walter Coronel (priest at Ahuano in the province of Manabi) wrote to ACN and also sent these pictures showing the places Jama, Pedernales and and Canoa .: “ … This is a very dangerous situation in our province.The official information is that 477 people died – in Pedernales until now over 300 people died, in Jama almost 70 and in Portovirjo and Manta about 250 died. Many injured people are assisted on the squares. We don’t know anything about small communities in the villages, we imagine huge damages. Many people along the road are asking for food, blankets and water.Almost all the temples and religious houses are almost completely destroyed or strongly damaged. Today we went with Archbishop Voltolini to see what is the situation, and comfort at least spiritually the people, the road is disrupted, and at points there is no passing, we had to do it phases to get there. The photo shows: One of the badly damaged churches

Fr. Walter Coronel (priest at Ahuano in the province of Manabi) wrote to ACN and also sent these pictures showing the places Jama, Pedernales and and Canoa .: “ … This is a very dangerous situation in our province.The official information is that 477 people died – in Pedernales until now over 300 people died, in Jama almost 70 and in Portovirjo and Manta about 250 died. Many injured people are assisted on the squares. We don’t know anything about small communities in the villages, we imagine huge damages. Many people along the road are asking for food, blankets and water.Almost all the temples and religious houses are almost completely destroyed or strongly damaged. Today we went with Archbishop Voltolini to see what is the situation, and comfort at least spiritually the people, the road is disrupted, and at points there is no passing, we had to do it phases to get there.
The photo shows: One of the badly damaged churches.


“It was two minutes before the start of the mass at seven o’clock on Saturday morning. Father Roberto Carlos Garviami was about to introduce myself to the one hundred faithful in the church of San José Picoaza when the ground began to shake. The earthquake was very, very powerful. Suddenly, a few centimeters away from me, a large section of the roof collapsed and buried Father Roberto. «In seconds, fear, blood and cries invaded the parish.


Broken-down churches and funeral on street corners

“I clutched two unknown persons in my arms. I could only pray and ask God for this to end as quickly as possible.” According to unofficial sources, there were no deaths in the church of San José Picoaza. But many people lost their lives in the churches of the Archdiocese and the Cathedral of Portoviejo.


The epicenter of the magnitude 7.9 earthquake was located 150 km from Portoviejo. Because of the earthquake, the buildings collapsed like houses of cards. There are more places to celebrate Mass, says Ecuadorian priest. The few churches which were not completely destroyed are full of cracks and the walls may collapse. “With Every discovery of a new victim, we celebrate the funeral in the street, at the corner of ruined houses.”


For now, it is still almost impossible to determine the number of dead because in the hills, entire rural areas are buried under rocks and trees. So far, nobody has been able to access it. “We know nothing about the people in the countryside. No one could get there. We are completely overwhelmed. ”

The more time passes, the less chance of finding survivors under the rubble. People are just beginning to realize what has happened to their homes, and the situation is deteriorating rapidly, confirms Walter father. Desperate, he adds: “The bodies begin to decompose. We have no water supply, and electricity is constantly interrupted. Our country is not prepared for this. ”

 Ecuador 3

A community in solidarity

Since the earthquake, the website of the Archdiocese of Portoviejo has not been updated, which proves – in the circumstances – a providential coincidence. Indeed, the site’s cover photo shows a poster on the Year 2016 home, under the motto “To welcome is to be happy to welcome a brother.” For the Ecuadorian people share the little they have with their countrymen. “People light fires in the streets and do the cooking for everyone, even for strangers.”


Father Walter Coronel has appealed to the international community and asks for help to get the Ecuadorian people out of this desperate situation. Aid to the Church in Need, which already supports several projects in the country, is now giving its support to help brothers and sisters in distress, through various emergency and reconstruction programs.


Ecuador 2

By M.Z. de la Morena, Aid to the Church in Need

Translated and adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada




ACN Feature Story:Al Qaryatayn, Syria

11.04.2016 in Construction, Peace, Persecution of Christians, Syria
Help for the construction of the convent Deir Mar Elian ( near Qaryatayn)


“The people are afraid that IS will return”

Though IS has been ousted from Al Qaryatayn, it is unlikely Christians will return quickly

ACN-20150920-29952 (3)

Fr. Jihad Youssed from the Community of al-Khalil, Der Mar Musa al-Habashi Jihad Youssef is a monk of al-Khalil monastic community, Deir Mar Musa el-Habashi, Syria, a community dedicated to the love of Jesus for Islam and Muslims. He works on the dialogue between the two religions to build harmony and friendship..

After jihadist terror militia “Islamic State” (IS) was ousted from the Syrian city of Al Qaryatayn, a member of the local Catholic religious order was skeptical that Christians from the city would return quickly. “The residents, who have fled, both Christians and Muslims, are afraid. They fear that IS may come back again,” Father Jihad Yousef of the Syrian-Catholic religious order of Mar Musa said  in an interview with the international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).


“The swift return of the people is also dependent upon how long the city will remain a military zone. Further, infrastructure such as water and electricity has largely been destroyed. And besides, many residents no longer even live in Syria, but have fled to other countries.”


The Syrian army was able to recapture the city early this week after it had been occupied by the terror militia since the beginning of last August. Many of the city’s residents fled. In addition to Father Jacques Mourad, a monk, and a companion who were already kidnapped in May and released in October, at times large numbers of Christians from Al Qaryatayn were being held hostage by IS. Parts of the local Mar Elian monastery of the community of Mar Musa were destroyed immediately after the city was seized. Photographs released by IS showed bulldozers levelling the complex, sections of which dated back to the 5th century.



“The archaeological part has been razed. Fortunately, however, the complex of buildings was not destroyed in its entirety” Father Jihad told Aid to the Church in Need. “The walls of the church are still standing, even though the roof is no longer there. The altar, unfortunately, was destroyed. They also smashed the sarcophagus of St. Elian.” However, it is a sign from God and a source of great consolation for the community, Father Jihad said, that the remains were not destroyed or stolen, but can still be found scattered there. “St. Elian is greatly revered by the Christians. Muslims also used to go on pilgrimage to his grave. We want to gather the holy relics and give them a worthy place again.”


The reconciliation of hearts



The town of Nebek, which is some 17km from the monastery of Mar Musa was bombed (for) three weeks. The Christian quarter was severely damaged. There are two parishes with a total of some 500 people, who hid in the underground for the period since the bombing. 

Father Jihad is confident that it will be possible to restore the smashed marble sarcophagus of the saint. “Until the possible restoration of the monastery, the remains could be taken to another place,” said Father Jihad.
However, more important for the monk is spiritual renewal. “Of course we are attached to the monastery. We invested a great deal of effort to make it into a place of prayer and dialogue. In this, Aid to the Church in Need was vital in its support. But we are not attached to stones. Our Jerusalem is in heaven. And you don’t lose anything with God. Matter can be restored. A great deal more vital than the restoration of the stones and the recovery of the monastery is the reconciliation of hearts,” said Father Jihad whose community has made the dialogue between Christians and Muslims an integral part of its focus.


The Deir Mar Elian convent ( near Qaryatayn)

The Deir Mar Elian convent
( near Qaryatayn)

“Several years ago,” he continued, “we were grateful to the benefactors and those who help with prayers at Aid to the Church in Need for their help in building the monastery. Unfortunately, it is now very heavily damaged,” he emphasized. “We are therefore now asking those who pray to add Syria to their prayers. May hatred vanish from the hearts.”








Feature story : “We identify more with Good Friday than with Easter”

24.03.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN Feature, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AED Canada, Aide à l’Église en détresse., By Oliver Maksan, By Oliver Maksan, Feature Story, Holy Land, Israel, Jerusalem, Journey with ACN, Mario Bard, Middle East, Moyen-Orient, Uncategorized, Voyager avec l’AED

Jerusalem, the Holy Land

“We identify more with Good Friday than with Easter”

Holy Week has begun in Jerusalem with the big Palm Sunday procession – but the political situation has left its mark   


Jerusalem belongs to the Christians on Palm Sunday. Bearing palm fronds and olive branches, thousands of locals and visitors from all over the world make their way singing and praying down the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem to receive the blessing of the Latin Patriarch.


Much to the annoyance of motorists, Israeli police close off the streets to traffic so that the kilometres long procession can pass through unhindered. Long after the Palm Sunday procession has ended, the celebrations continue in and close to the Christian quarter of the Old City. Even the tram has to temporarily discontinue operations when the Christian scout groups parade with their bagpipes. With these celebrations Palestinian Christians – only a small minority in both Israel and Palestine – not only want to commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but also show Jews and Muslims: We are still here – even though we only make up two percent of the population in Israel, and even less in Palestine.


This year however, the joy was subdued. The wave of violence that has shaken the Holy Land since last autumn has left its mark. Since fewer foreign pilgrims are traveling to the Holy Land because of the current situation, the procession was much smaller than usual. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a representative of the Israeli police estimated that the procession, which had 30,000 participants last year, was probably only half as large this year. Most importantly, however: Christians from the West Bank were missing.


Bishop Fouad Twal leads the procession on Palms Sunday 2016.

Bishop Fouad Twal leads the procession on Palms Sunday 2016.

“The people are afraid to come to Jerusalem”


“Last year we arrived from Bethlehem in seven buses. This year there were only three,” explained Johnny, a Catholic from the birthplace of Christ. He said that in contrast to previous years, no Christians came from West Bank cities such as Nablus or Jenin. The reason, he explained, was that Israeli authorities only started issuing entry permits to Jerusalem very late this year. “We only found out on Friday whether we would be able to go on Sunday. For many this was just too short notice,” he told the pastoral charity.


However, Johnny then said, what the real reason was: “The people are afraid to come to Jerusalem. They fear that something could happen to them. We constantly hear about Palestinians being shot here.”


In fact, since autumn more than 180 Palestinians have died in clashes with Israeli security forces in the Holy Land. However, many of them were killed because they attacked Israelis, including civilians. The attacks were carried out with knives, scissors or guns. More than 30 Jews were killed in this way. Israelis speak of victims of terrorism when referring to their dead and insist on their right to self-defence. Most Palestinians consider their dead to be resistance fighters who were executed by Israelis without sentencing. These viewpoints are irreconcilable. And thus hatred and distrust continue to grow on both sides.


“The church is opposed to any form of violence, be it from Palestinians or from Israeli soldiers. After all, the fact that they are wearing a uniform does not justify everything they do. However, at the same time we are for justice. It is simply not enough to say: No more violence. As long as there is injustice, there will be no peace,” Jamal Khader, said the rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Beit Jalla, a neighbouring town of Bethlehem.


Jerusalem has to be an open city. It belongs to everyone…


In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, he was not surprised to hear about the drop in the number of visitors to the Palm Sunday procession this year. “I can understand that Palestinian Christians do not feel like coming to Jerusalem – and that despite the fact that it is Easter and we traditionally celebrate it in Jerusalem.” The priest said that it all started in the late nineties with the checkpoints. “The people often had to wait for hours. Then came the

The city of Jerusalem.

The city of Jerusalem.

wall and the permits. I used to come to Jerusalem for an ice cream. Today, I avoid coming here whenever I can. I do not want to have to pass through the checkpoints. And many feel the same.”


Father Jamal believes that Israel wants to discourage Palestinians from visiting Jerusalem. “Not everyone is issued an entry permit for the high feast days. Sometimes only the parents receive a permit and not the children. Then everyone stays home of course. Sometimes they are all issued a permit, but are then turned back again for some reason. This can’t be. Jerusalem has to be an open city. It belongs to everyone, Jews, Christians, Muslims. It can never be an exclusive city. Because then there will never be peace.”


Father Khader said that the political situation also influences how Palestinian Christians celebrate Easter. “We Christians of Palestine identify more with Good Friday than with Easter. We as Palestinians can closely relate to the sufferings of Christ. When we see Christ suffering, we see our suffering. The Gospels of the Passion not only tell the story of Jesus, but also our own. That does not mean that we do not believe in resurrection and the hope that goes along with this. But we are not that far yet.”


Interview by Oliver Maksan
Adaptation: Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada.