fbpx

Pope Francis. Tag

 

ACN Press: A Papal Blessing of an Icon for Syria

16.09.2019 in ACN, Pope Francis, Prayer, Press Release, Syria

A Papal Blessing of an Icon for Syria
Marie-Claude Lalonde among ACN delegates to Vatican

By Mario Bard, ACN Canada
Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Monday, September 16, 2019 — The national director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN), Marie-Claude Lalonde, attended this past Sunday, September 15, the blessing of an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Consoler of the Syrian People by Pope Francis. 

The ceremony took place at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. The icon will be carried through 34 dioceses in Syria—as a sort of pilgrimage—offered for the veneration of the faithful along its path intended to finish in Damascus, in May 2020.

“It is a great joy for me to have participated in this event which took place just before the Sunday Angelus,” said a joyful Marie-Claude Lalonde on the other end of the line. “This blessing is a pure joy as we are at the very heart of ACN’s mission: providing pastoral support to Christians who are in need.” And she adds: “This initiative touches on every one of the calls for peace that Pope Francis has launched to put a stop to the abominable conflict that has caused so much suffering for Syrian civilians. With this gesture he has reaffirmed with strength his support of the Syria population broken by war.”

 

Pilgrimage of the icon: For the healing of hearts

This icon of Our Lady of Sorrows was written last August by Father Spiridon Kabbash of Homs and will be presented for the veneration of the faithful in 34 dioceses of Syria, likely until May 31, 2020.

I greeted the Pope in the name of all Canadian benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need Canada,” says Mrs. Lalonde

“The blessing of an icon can seem inconsequential to secularized societies like our own,” explains Mrs. Lalonde. “But in Syria, religious traditions are still present in public and social society and these gestures—such as to write an icon, bless it and offer it for veneration by the faithful for a period of nine months is a veritable balm, immense and almost essential for all Christians who are wounded by this filthy war, they who have survived through over eight years of fratricidal conflict.”

“Finally, I greeted the Pope in the name of all Canadian benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need Canada,” says Mrs. Lalonde in closing.

The Pope’s message to the families who will accompany the icon is: “You are not alone; we are with you.”

Meanwhile in Syria, the 6,000 rosaries blessed by Pope Francis one month ago were distributed throughout Syrian parishes as part of a larger prayer campaign for and with the Syrian people called Console my People, an initiative promoted by Aid to the Church in Need and the Syrian Churches.

Sunday, September 15, 2019 : Pope Francis,  blessing the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Consoler of the Syrian People. Next to the Icon, Father Spiridon Kabbash of Homs, the writer of the icon. (© ACN/AED)

A Drop of Milk in Homs, Syria

Aid to the Church in Need Canada continues to promote its fundraising campaign to raise over $378,000, for the provision of daily milk, for over 6,000 children aged 0 to 10 in the city of Homs for a period of six months.

There are three easy and secure ways to give for these children:

  • Give through our secure site: http://bit.ly/DropofMilk2019
  • By telephone: 1(800) 585-6333, Ext 222
  • By mail Aid to the Church in Need Canada
    PO. Box 670, Station H
    Montréal (Québec) H3G 2M6

 

ACN NEWS: Pope Francis Calls on Catholics to Pray for Syrian Families

16.08.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Syria

POPE FRANCIS AND ACN – AN ACN EVENT SUPPORTING SYRIANS

Pope Francis calls on Catholics to pray for Syrian families

By Amanda Griffin and Maria Lozano, ACN International
Published on the web, Friday August 16, 2019

Rome/Montreal, Thursday August 15, 2019 – This Thursday, August 15th, Pope Francis welcomed a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and blessed 6,000 Rosaries which will be offered to the families of the war victims in Syria.

Committed to helping the suffering Christians in Syria ACN has, since 2011, supported approximately 850 projects with a budget of 52.5 million dollars. But it is clear that money is simply not enough. Spiritual support is necessary to heal the wounds and scars left by a long war.

“The Rosaries, made on the initiative of ACN, shall be a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria, especially those who have lost a loved one. We continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and in the whole world.” The words of Pope Francis came during the Angelus prayers at the Vatican audience with the pontiff attended by ACN President, Thomas Heine-Geldern, as Pope Francis’ personal commitment to praying for peace in solidarity with the Syrian people.

 

Consoling my people – September 15th

Considering the profound need for Christians, and indeed for the whole of Syrian society, for solidarity, consolation as well for forgiveness, reconciliation and purification of memory at both the personal and communal levels –the benediction of the Rosaries will be followed-up with a special celebration of prayers for peace in Syria, on Sunday, September 15, led by the Holy Father (In Rome).  The local Christian leaders with the support of the international pontifical charity are organizing a celebration in Syria on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  Prayers for the families of victims of war (killed and kidnapped alike). Pope Francis will bless the icon of “Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians” written by a Greek-Orthodox priest in Homs.

On the same date many celebrations will unfold in all Syrian parishes where pastoral gifts will be given to families in mourning, with a special Vespers and a Procession titled: Console my people (cf. Is 40:1). With the Console my people celebration, ACN hopes to provide a much needed spiritual consolation and moral support to Syrian families and communities recovering from profound losses of members who were killed or kidnapped, to console families who mourn the loss of their dearest ones and commemorate the victims of war.

 

ACN Drop of Milk campaign for the children of Homs

Aid to the Church in Need Canada has launched a campaign to help the children in the city of Homs, Syria. The goal is to give milk daily to children of 0 to 10 years old, for a period of six months.  The objective is to raise 378,000 dollars.

Information: DropofMilk2019 or 1-800-585-6333.

 

 

ACN News: Prayers for the repose of the soul of His Eminence Cardinal Jaime Ortega

30.07.2019 in Uncategorized

 

Cuba

A Shepherd to My People

With great sadness the international Catholic pontifical charity has received news of the passing of His Eminence Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega Alamino, who dedicated his life with such care and humble concern to the service of the People of God on the island of Cuba.

ACN had the privilege of working for many years with Cardinal Ortega who, thanks to his great spirit of cooperation, contributed to the realization of many important projects on behalf of the Church in Cuba and in the Archdiocese of Havana in particular.

Below we publish a tribute to Cardinal Ortega, written by Sergio-Lázaro Cabarrouy, a Cuban layman who has long been involved with the Church in his country and who knew the Cardinal since his own childhood.


“Mummy, can we talk to Monsignor Jaime and ask him to move the time of the Mass? I can never watch the cartoons on TV.” I can still recall the mischievous grin on my father’s face and the quick response from my mother: “Why don’t you ask him yourself?” That Sunday, the Bishop of Pinar del Río arrived a few minutes late for Holy Mass for the seven Catholics gathered together in San Diego de los Baños. “The water has risen in the dam, and we had to make a detour,” he explained, as he began the celebration.

After Mass, as usual, the little community gathered together with our Bishop and parish priest to chat a little and drink some juice, which Bishop Jaime always thought very sweet. On that day, without beating about the bush, I put my “reasonable” concern directly to him. In response, in a solemn voice and looking me directly in the eyes, he told me: “It is a good thing that you have to give up the TV cartoons in order to come to Mass. In fact, you will have to give up much more important things than this in your life for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

I was thunderstruck, and for many months I kept going back over those words, and I wasn’t very convinced by them. However, life has since then proved to me overwhelmingly the truth of those words of this man of God, and I give thanks to Almighty God for having given me the light and the strength to freely give up those cartoons – since my father would never have forced me to go to Mass – because undoubtedly since then following Jesus Christ has involved much greater trials, and this was an early training for them.

I recall how the homilies of Bishop Jaime succeeded in overcoming the fears of many a San Diego resident – who found themselves first of all sitting in the park, looking towards the church, then at the church door, then in the last bench at the back, and then finally in the second or third row. I also recall how he endeavoured to engage in dialogue with the teachers and headmasters at my primary school, who were eager to get me to abandon my “obscurantist practices, relics of the past.”

The life of Cardinal Jaime Ortega was one of a caring shepherd who always took the path of dialogue with those of all faiths and none, and who attempted the difficult task of serving as a bridge. As he himself explained, a bridge is made of the same materials as a wall, but it serves to join both banks of the river, rather than being built up to separate people from one another. A bridge is built so that people can walk over it, unlike a wall, which towers above us. It is the only approach that could have enabled me, years after those “struggles” of the 1970’s, to go up to that same school teacher, who was awaiting news of her own daughter in the same maternity ward as my own wife, and say to her, “I have been praying for your daughter and her baby” and have the joy of witnessing her reply: “Thank you so much! We needed that.”

One Cuban bishop told me how he had never seen his brother bishop, the Cardinal, happier than when he was travelling with him to visit recently founded Catholic communities in remote places where the faith had previously been abandoned in his rural diocese. It was shortly before he retired as Archbishop of Havana. “He was as happy as a child!” And indeed he was a priest close to his people, a man of dialogue, a promoter of the unity of the Church and a fervent Cuban, committed to bringing the support of the Christian faith to society. In all this he made mistakes, in the view of some people, almost as great as his successes, but he never deviated from his course, like a navigator persevering in sailing out “into the deep” (Lk 5:4).

His courage enabled him to achieve things that were unthinkable at the time, such as launching publications and periodicals right at the beginning of the so-called “special period”, mediating in the sharp dispute between Cuba and the United States in order to re-establish diplomatic relations, and funding a centre for Higher Studies in order to bring continuity to the educational work begun by Padre Varela in the same building.

May the Lord, in his infinite mercy, receive the soul of this son of Matanzas, born in Jagüey Grande on October 18, 1936, the child of Adela and Arsenio, who responded to the call of God to the priesthood and to whom high responsibilities were entrusted. And who, knowing himself ultimately inadequate to the task, chose as his episcopal motto the phrase: “My grace is enough for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

ACN asks your prayers for the repose of the soul of His Eminence Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

May the Lord grant him eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.

ACN Feature Story: Nicaragua – A Church supporting its people 

16.04.2019 in ACN, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Ines San Martin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Nicaragua

Nicaragua: A Church supporting its people

“We are carrying a small corner of the cross of Christ. We cannot carry it all. It is He who is helping us.”

by Ines San Martin , ACN International
Revised by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Posted April 16, 2019

Nicaragua today is a country trapped between two identities: on the one side it is a nation led by a government that in many respects continues a long history of dictatorship, as typified by the Somoza dynasty, which governed the country for almost 6 decades during the 20th century.

On the other hand, it is also a country whose people have said “enough.” A people who have woken up from their stupor and now wish to move forward, with a Catholic Church led by ten bishops who have no fear of shepherding their flock and being a Church that goes out to the margins, as Pope Francis keeps asking, and which opens the doors of its cathedrals in order to be, quite literally, a field hospital. A Church without political banners and which makes no distinctions in caring for the wounded, supporting those who suffer and feeding their hunger, both physical and spiritual.

“They stepped up at a difficult moment… When the people were suffering greatly, because they were afraid to go out into the streets,” says one priest from the diocese of Matagalpa – who for reasons of security prefers to remain anonymous. He is speaking to a delegation from the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), which visited the country at the end of November 2018 to express its support and solidarity with the situation in which the country finds itself.

A population in distress

Despite the posters in the city, which boast of a Matagalpa that is “Christian, socialist, in solidarity,” the tension is palpable, with police and paramilitaries on the streets to dissuade the civil population from organizing protests, although these, for the most part, have been peaceful. The protests began in April 2018, but in the case of Matagalpa, the government forces have even prohibited a group of women from honouring the memory of their children, who were murdered in the civil-war in a march that they have done regularly for almost 20 years.

“I am one of the lucky ones. Many priests have been forced to flee,” our friend tells us. “But we cannot remain unmoved when people burst in during Mass because they are killing them. Because the army and police aren’t throwing sweets at them. They are shooting to kill, aiming at people’s heads, their backs and their chests.”

“The Gospel teaches us that we must open our doors to those who are persecuted, and this is what we did. Our churches were turned into refuges, not into opposition planning centres, as the government claims to believe.”

This is a priest who knows what he’s talking about. On May 15, 2018, in a car belonging to the diocese and known as “the ambulance,” he rescued 19 wounded demonstrators who had been hit by army AK-47s bullets. By government order, the public hospitals were forbidden to help the wounded, the majority of whom were university students.

“During those days, the people on our church benches were not listening to the Gospel, they were living it,” he told us with emotion.

The Church defends the right to peaceful protest

From September onwards, and with help from various international organizations, the diocesan church opened five pastoral Human Rights offices providing support to families who lost children during the demonstrations, and to those who are still persecuted today for having protested. Around 50 are still imprisoned without trial, and hundreds have “disappeared,” while an estimated 30,000 or so have gone into exile in Costa Rica, and many more into other countries.

“They accuse us of hiding weapons, but we have never done so,” the priest tells us. “Our only weapon has been Jesus in the Eucharist.”

The number of people who today depend on the Church for their survival has tripled since the month of April.

“We are carrying a small corner of the Cross of Christ,” he tells us. “We cannot carry it all. It is He who is helping us.”

The situation of the bishops and of many religious in Nicaragua is far from easy. Their act of opening the doors of churches to care for the wounded, both students and police, and their willingness to be involved in a failed process of national dialogue, has resulted in many being branded by official sources as “coup plotters” and “terrorists.”

One of these is Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the Archbishop of Managua, the capital of the country. Despite the difficulties, he has lost neither his smile nor his faith. But despite his smile, Brenes cannot hide his concern for the future of Nicaragua, a country that has lived through enough revolutions to know that many of the grandiloquent ideas that convince the masses, sooner or later end up being destroyed by the abuses of power of the few.

The last revolution began on 18 April, although many people in Nicaragua agree that in reality it was no more than the “matchstick that ignited the bonfire that had been building up a long time previously.”

“The Church is accompanying the process of dialogue that was initiated after the protests, but as a service to the country,” Brenes insists. “We are not interested in power, but in supporting the efforts for peace, without looking for any personal benefit other than the good of the country. When the clashes took place between the government forces and the demonstrators, we defended all sides.”

More than once, the Cardinal was forced to mediate between the government and the protesters, both in order to rescue police officers who had been captured in the crush, and to prevent the soldiers from shooting on the students.

“We never asked anyone what side they were on, we simply helped all those who asked our aid,” he told us, though he did acknowledge that they could have denounced the use of violence on the part of some of the demonstrators.

“Both sides were violent at times, but the government made disproportionate use of violence,” he said. “The riot police had rifles, whereas the young demonstrators had catapults and home-made petrol bombs.”

 

Praying the Rosary to bring peace

The challenge now is to work for national reconciliation; something he knows will take generations and cannot be achieved overnight. “But we have to lay the groundwork for this reconciliation.”

Despite the challenges, Brenes chooses to cling to his faith rather than lose hope, more than ever convinced of the prophetic words of Pope Pius XII, who said, “Give me an army of people who pray the Rosary every day, and we will change the world.”

“I pray the Rosary every day: the first mystery for Nicaragua, the second for the conversion of those in government, the third for the mothers who have lost their children, or have them in prison, the fourth for the political prisoners, and the fifth for the clergy.

We believe that faith can move mountains, and the prayer of the Rosary can convert hearts and move them to a true reconciliation that will care for the wounded hearts and seek the good of everyone,” the Cardinal concluded. “And you, will you pray for Nicaragua?”

ACN Interview: “The Catholic Church does exist in Morocco. And it is a Samaritan!”

29.03.2019 in ACN International, AFRIQUE

MOROCCO
ACN INTERVIEW “THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES EXIST IN MOROCCO. AND IT IS A SAMARITAN!”

Learn first-hand information about the country Pope Francis will be visiting in late March

María Lozano held an interview with Monsignor Cristóbal López Romero, the bishop of Rabat, for a television broadcast produced by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The Salesian of Don Bosco talked about what it means to live and work in this North African nation.

The universality of the Catholic Church becomes palpable in many places where Christianity is in the minority, including Morocco, a country with 37 million inhabitants, 99.9% of whom are Muslim and only 0.08% are Catholics.

A small, but great Church, carries out its pastoral work among the Catholic faithful of the country. It supports the most disadvantaged in the Moroccan population including the thousands of young people who cross the desert from sub-Saharan Africa looking for a future in their idealized Europe. Pope Francis is planning to travel to the region bordering Africa and Europe on March 30 and 31, in response to an invitation issued by King Mohammed VI and the bishops in the country, visit the cities of Rabat and Casablanca.

 “The Catholic Church does exist in Morocco,” the bishop proudly said at the beginning of the interview. “It is a vibrant and young church blessed with mercy and with a strong desire to bear witness.The North African country has two cathedrals, one in Tangier and a second in Rabat. The first was built during the time of the Spanish protectorate, the second during the time of the French protectorate. Bishop López Romero continued, “More young than old people come to our churches, more men than women, more black than white people.” The members of the Church in Morocco are mostly foreigners, faithful from more than 100 different countries. They generally work in companies that operate subsidiaries in Morocco. In addition, many of them come from countries south of the Sahara, such as the Congo, Senegal or the Ivory Coast. They move to Morocco to pursue their studies and find the “feeling of security” they are looking for with the Catholic Church. The Catholic religious who work in the country hail from more than 40 different countries. Bishop López explains, “Being Catholic means being universal, global.” This universality requires people to put aside that which makes them distinct and concentrate on what is shared. “We look for what is important, at the essential. The differences enrich us, we are open with one another and see the differences as an opportunity, not a problem.”

Church as a Samaritan

The Moroccan Church and the charities it works with take in and help who are weakest, irrespective of their background. Primarily, they are active within Moroccan society and for the immigrants coming from countries south of the Sahara, who are trying to reach Europe or remain in North Africa. “The Church takes in and cares for those in need, that is, it is a Samaritan Church,” the interviewee said. Through its Caritas organization, Morocco takes care of thousands of migrants who cross the Sahara and then, after having completed this difficult crossing, “remain stuck” in the country, without being able to continue on to Europe. “These people need care and a sympathetic ear. Most of them are sick when they arrive and many of the women are pregnant. The Church “takes them in. It protects, promotes and integrates them, just as Pope Francis has asked us to do.” The work of the Church in Morocco is so important that “even the Muslim authorities appreciate its efforts.”

When asked why young people are fleeing Africa, Bishop López explained that economic reasons are the key impetus for the majority of the young migrants. They are fleeing poverty and unemployment, but many of them are also fleeing war, hostilities, persecution or natural disasters. According to the bishop of Rabat, the migration problem in Africa will be impossible to solve as long as “30% of the food produced continues to be thrown out in Europe,” and people continue to live “in excess and grandeur” while at the same time expecting those “who live in wretched circumstances to passively accept their fate” and society remains unaware of its behaviour. “It is certainly not Christian and can even be called inhumane that Europe protects its borders so that it does not have to share what belongs to all and what Europe has appropriated,” the religious expressed his outrage. The bishop called to mind the words of Pope Francis: “Capitalism kills.” “Instead of providing aid, we should pay for the raw materials that we exploit. We should make sure that the multinational corporations pay the taxes that they owe.” He believes that Africa cannot be helped with “crumbs, but with justice and development plans. We are nothing without love, we are even less without justice.”

“The young Moroccan” – the bishop returned to the previous topic – “is imprisoned in his own country.” Morocco is suffering because of its geographical location, from the fact that there is no realistic way to leave the country. To the South lies the vast Saharan desert, to the West, the Atlantic, to the East, Algeria – and the border to this country is closed due to war – and to the North, Europe. “Many young people from Morocco point to Spain and ask, ‘Why are they able to come here, but I can’t go there?’”

Does religious freedom exist in Morocco?

An entirely different issue, which Pope Francis will surely be confronted with during his trip, is the status of religious freedom in the country. As the pontifical foundation ACN concluded in the Religious Freedom in the World Report 2018, according to its constitution, the Kingdom of Morocco is a sovereign Muslim state. Article 3 reads: “Islam is the religion of the state, which guarantees to all the free exercise of beliefs.” However, the constitution prohibits political parties, parliamentarians or constitutional amendments to infringe upon Islam. The European Parliament acknowledges that religious freedom is constitutionally enshrined in Morocco, but adds that “Christians and especially Muslims who converted to Christianity face numerous forms of discrimination and are not allowed to set foot in a church.” Under the Moroccan Penal Code, proselytism by non-Muslims, that is to “shake the faith” of the Muslim population, is illegal. The distribution of non-Islamic religious materials is also restricted by the government.

For more information about the situation in Morocco, please consult:
Religious freedom report – country Marocco

By Mónica Zorita and Maria Lozano, ACN International

Revised for Canada: Amanda Bridget Griffin, CAN Canada

March 29, 2019

 

ACN News: Eighth Anniversary of Civil War outbreak in Syria

25.03.2019 in ACN International, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Syria

Eighth Anniversary of Civil War outbreak in Syria


Aid to the Church in Need has supported 308 urgent projects since 2011

 

Friday, March 15 marked the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Syria. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) has continued to support the ongoing emergency situation in the country, especially the plight of the 127,185 Christian families registered in Syria.

The war in Syria has unleashed the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the Second World War, with some 12 million refugees and internally displaced as a result of the 8-year conflict.

Moreover, Christians in Syria now represent only 3% of the population, whereas before the war they were 10%. In addition to all the consequences of the hostilities and the economic embargo, they have also suffered religious persecution at the hands of the jihadist groups involved in the conflict. In fact, during these eight years of war, 1,707 Christians were murdered and 677 abducted; 1,309 Christian churches and other Church properties were destroyed and 7,802 Christian houses and homes damaged or destroyed.

 

44.2 Million Dollars in Aid

Since the March 2011 onset of the conflict, and up to the end in 2018, ACN allocated 44.2 million dollars to 738 projects to fulfil its mission of supporting the Church in need throughout the country. The projects were implemented by 9 different Christian Churches, thanks to the cooperation of 130 project partners on the ground.

Of the 738 projects funded, some 80% (35.2 million dollars) were given in the form of emergency aid, among them some 308 for the basic necessities of Christian families who have not left the country. To now, 10% of the aid has been for the reconstruction of people’s homes and Church properties. An additional 6% went to supporting priests in the country, in the form of Mass Offerings and pastoral aid.

 

Emergency Aid, Reconstruction and Pastoral Aid

In Canada, a project aimed to supporting the A Drop of Milk program for children has been active for two years. An initiative showcasing small classical music concerts given by local pianist and ACN supporter, Chantal Roussety, has brought $3,364 to the cause.  “The amount may seem very modest if we compare it to the grand total,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN. “But, for two years now, this personal project developed by Mrs. Roussety, is a reflection of the great sense of solidarity that the Syrians, particularly the children, are in need of. We are so very grateful for it.” In all, donations from Canadians rose to at $17,179.

Destined for children under the age of 10, A Drop of Milk represented 15% of the overall budget of all emergency aid given.  Finally, over three million dollars were attributed to paying the rents of displaced Christian families, and over 1.4 million dollars have served for the reconstruction of family homes.

The 13 main emergency aid projects funded during these eight years of war include the following: direct emergency aid for the most basic necessities; food parcels, financial support for students, medical aid, support with rent, heating, electricity, gas and water; milk and nappies for babies and small children, essential medicines, Christmas gifts for the children, warm clothing, educational materials and vocational counselling.

An Appeal from Pope Francis

Throughout these eight years of war, Pope Francis has continually denounced the injustice of the war in Syria and has continued to draw attention to the suffering of the Christians. “Let us pray and let us help the Christians to remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses to mercy, pardon and reconciliation,” he has stated. “May, the prayers of the Church, help them to experience the closeness of the faithful God and touch every human conscience to seek a sincere compromise for the sake of peace. And may God our Lord pardon those who are waging war, those who manufacture arms to destroy one another, and may he convert their hearts. Let us pray for peace in our beloved Syria,” he concluded.

Iraq – Rebuilding with The Pope’s Lamborghini profits! – ACN-News

26.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Marta Petrosillo, By Marta Petrosillo, Communiqué, Construction, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Reconstruction

Aid to the Church in Need in Iraq

Rebuilding with The Pope’s Lamborghini profits!

Montreal, February 26thThanks to a donation of 300 000 dollars from the Holy Father, following the auctioning of the Lamborghini that was given to him last year, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will be able to fund two new projects on behalf of the Iraqi Christian families and other minorities who have returned to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

Marta Petrosillo for ACN-International and Mario Bard, ACN-Canada

On 15 November 2017 the Holy Father decided to give ACN part of the proceeds from the auctioning of the Lamborghini Hurricane that had been donated to him by the famous Italian carmaker. Now ACN will give concrete form to the Pope’s gesture by funding the reconstruction of two buildings of the Syriac Catholic Church, destroyed by the war. They are the nursery school (kindergarten) of Our Lady and the multipurpose centre of the parish of the same name.

Both buildings are in the village of Bashiqa, just 30 km from Mosul. The village was badly damaged during the war, but the Christian community has returned, and in large numbers. In facts by now, 405 of the 580 homes that were destroyed here have already been rebuilt and around 50% of the Christians, or 1,585 people, have already returned.

The Parish Hall was totally destroyed.

The two projects funded with money from the Lamborghini will also benefit the other minorities in the town, since the multipurpose centre, which has capacity for over 1,000 people, will be used for weddings and the religious feasts of all the different communities. It will be the largest such centre in the area and will be available for use to over 30,000 people of all different faiths and ethnic groups.

The Return of Iraqi Christians: An Unexpected Success!

signature

Just a little over two years since the liberation of the villages of the Nineveh Plains, the number of Christians who have been able to return to their homes has exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. By January 11th this year at least 9108 families had returned to their villages, almost 46% of the 19,832 families dwelling there in 2014 prior to the arrival of the so-called Islamic State (IS). This is thanks above all to the immense work of reconstruction – to which ACN have greatly contributed – that has made it possible so far to rebuild or repair some 41% of the 14,035 homes
destroyed or damaged by IS.

This intervention, in which the pontifical foundation ACN has played a major role in collaboration with the local Churches, has also found a generous benefactor in the person of the Holy Father. Already back in 2016 Pope Francis gave 150,000 dollars in support of the “Saint Joseph Charity Clinic” in Erbil, which provides free medical assistance.

This most recent gift by the Holy Father will be a further help to local Christians, enabling them to live their own faith and offer a future in Iraq to their children. At the same time it is a powerful message and an invitation to peaceful coexistence between the different religions in a region where fundamentalism has sadly damaged interreligious relations.

***

Since 2014 and up to the present day ACN has given over 60 million dollars for the support of Iraqi Christians.
Thanks to you, Christians in Iraq can return home.
Thank you!

Iraq: New hope for Christians in Iraq!


“The seed has been sown” – Abu Dhabi interreligious dialogue conference

11.02.2019 in Abu Dhabi, ACN Canada, ACN NEWS, By Oliver Maksan, Interreligious Dialogue, Journey with ACN

Pope Francis

“The seed has been sown”

Eastern Church leaders hope historic papal visit in Abu Dhabi will be a source of lasting momentum

Catholic Church leaders from the Near East have emphasised the significance of Pope Francis’s visit to the United Arab Emirates. “I believe that this is a very positive sign for the relationship between Islam and Christianity in the region,” Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, head of the Coptic Catholic Church, commented. In a talk with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on Monday in Abu Dhabi, he said, “We Christians in Egypt may harbour renewed hope. The fruits will not become apparent immediately, but the message of tolerance and fraternity has been sown.”

The importance of the meeting taking place on Monday in Abu Dhabi between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University of Cairo, Ahmed al-Tayeb, one of the highest Sunni authorities, cannot be stressed enough, the Church leader explained. “This visit will help to correct the false image that many Muslims have of Christianity,” said the Patriarch, which Church is united with Rome. “Conversely, many Christians will realise that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists. The Islamic authorities want to show that they have nothing to do with terrorism.”

In the Holy Land as well, there is hope that the papal visit will be a source of momentum. In a talk with Aid to the Church in Need on Monday in Abu Dhabi, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa said, “The message of fraternity and dialogue that the Pope has brought to the Arab Peninsula is hopefully a seed that will also take root in the Holy Land.” The Apostolic Administrator of the

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  “The message of fraternity and dialogue that the Pope has brought to the Arab Peninsula is hopefully a seed that will also take root in the Holy Land.” 

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem stayed in the Gulf State during the visit of Pope Francis. This is the first time in history that a pope has visited the Arab Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

Archbishop Pizzaballa continued, “We cannot expect this visit to bring a concrete solution. Only general statements can be made. However, the meeting itself is momentous because it gathers together religious leaders in a region that is the cradle of the monotheistic religions, but also one that is shaken by religious conflict. A meeting between the Pope and the Grand Imam is thus an important sign.” According to Archbishop Pizzaballa, the Christian-Islamic dialogue has entered a new phase. “There is a before and after ISIS,” the Italian Franciscan said. “The Islamic-Christian dialogue began a long time ago. But it was very formal and general. With the appearance of ISIS, the dialogue became more concrete and more realistic. For all involved, it is about stopping aberrant behaviour as well as killing and massacre in the name of religion.” As religions in the Near and Middle East also have a political and social dimension, the archbishop continued, the issue has now become how to develop positive relationships with each other in everyday life.

Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, head of the Coptic Catholic Church and Bishop Camillo Ballin, Apostolic Vicar of North Arabia, discuss during the intereligous conference of Abu Dhabi. 

On Monday, Pope Francis attended an interfaith meeting in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. The meeting with the grand imam of Cairo on Monday and the celebration of Holy Mass with 130 000 Christians on Tuesday were the highlights of the three-day trip. Pope Francis returned to Rome on Tuesday.

The Pope’s next trip to a Muslim country will take place on March 30 and 31 when François visits Morocco. This year marks the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi’s visit to the Grand Sultan of Egypt and the Pope’s travels are a way of celebrating this anniversary.


 

Visit in the United Arab Emirates – “A historic visit” – a first for a pope

04.02.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Adaptation Mario Bard, By Oliver Maksan, By Oliver Maksan, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, liberté religieuse, Middle East, Pope Francis, United Arab Emirates

Visit in the United Arab Emirates

“A historic visit”

 

Pope Francis is visiting Abu Dhabi until tomorrow. The country is more tolerant to Christians than other countries in the area. However, full religious freedom does not exist in the United Arab Emirates.

Bishop Hinder: “The decisive thing is that we Christians are credible witnesses of the message of Christ. And that also means accepting with humility that we will never play first fiddle in this society. It is sometimes enough to be able to play a simple recorder with sufficient proficiency to delight others!”

Shortly before the visit of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi, the local church talked about the support it has received from Muslims. In an interview with ACN International, Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of southern Arabia, spoke of a “historic” visit and declared, “It will be the first time that the Eucharist will be celebrated on public property that the government has placed at our disposal for this purpose.”

Bishop Hinder, a Swiss Capuchin monk, is expecting around 130 000 faithful, who will gather together on 5 February to participate in the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Francis will be visiting the Islamic country from 3 to 5 February. This will be the first time that a pope has ever visited the Arab Peninsula. “A number of Muslims have contacted me to ask how they can help prepare for the visit. Many have expressed an interest in attending the Mass. The government is also doing everything in its power to ensure that as many of our faithful as possible will be able to see the Pope,” Bishop Hinder continued.

The United Arab Emirates is considered relatively open and tolerant towards non-Muslims. Thus, according to ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World report, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi had the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Mosque renamed Mary, Mother of Jesus Mosque in June 2017. According to the crown prince, this decision was taken to strengthen the human ties between the followers of different religions. “I have been living in Abu Dhabi for the last 15 years and have never experienced any animosity,” explained Bishop Hinder. “Of course we know that in all Islamic countries, non-Muslims – not only Christians – have to comply with the social laws of Islam. On the other hand, I see a deep respect for Christians, also among the local population. This is even more apparent now in the run-up to the papal visit.” According to the bishop, while in Saudi Arabia divine services are only tolerated when held in private in relatively small groups, in the United Arab Emirates there are churches where thousands of worshippers gather regularly to celebrate mass. Almost one million Catholics of different rites live in the United Arab Emirates. Practically all of them are foreign workers who stay in the country for a limited period of time. Many come from India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. They are taken care of by nine parishes. For this reason, Bishop Hinder is hoping that more churches will be built. “More churches would be desirable, as the number of our parishes is still not commensurate with the number of believers.”

The visit of the pope: to answer The Spirit of the Gospel

Last year ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World report stated that Islam is the state religion of the emirates. Islamic sharia law is one of the primary sources of legislation. The report stated that “while Muslims may proselytize, penalties are in place for non-Muslims proselytizing among Muslims. If caught, non-citizens may have their residency revoked and face deportation.” According to the report, Christian churches may not be adorned with bell towers or have Crosses in them. Muslims do not have the right to convert to Christianity. Bishop Hinder explained, “I am not aware of any Muslim country that allows full religious freedom. Even in those where converting a Muslim to another religion is not punishable by law, at the very least the person’s social circle, in particular his or her family, will react with ostracism or even physical violence. Freedom of religion is greater or less depending upon the country.”

Bishop Hinder mainly hopes that the papal visit will have an effect on the general mood. “I hope that the visit of the pope will be able to change the overall mood for the better. However, it would be a mistake to expect too many miracles from this kind of visit,” the Apostolic Vicar said. “The decisive thing is that we Christians are credible witnesses of the message of Christ. And that also means accepting with humility that we will never play first fiddle in this society. It is sometimes enough to be able to play a simple recorder with sufficient proficiency to delight others!”

Father Andrzej Halemba, who is responsible for this region at ACN, agrees with Bishop Hinder. “The visit of the Holy Father is a great encouragement for the Christians working on the Gulf. They will experience the solidarity of the world Church.” Father Halemba emphasized the great importance of today’s interfaith meeting between the Pope and representatives of Islam. “By reaching out to Muslims, the Pope is fulfilling the mandate of the Gospel. This is a dialogue of God with humanity, which is continued as a dialogue from person to person.”

 


 

ACN Interview – An interview with Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva, Fiji

05.10.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN Interview, By Maria Lozano, Fiji

Fiji

“God has heard the cry of my people”


An interview with Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva

The Fiji Archipelago in the South Pacific is a renowned destination for tourists from Australia, New Zealand and the United States in general. Its capital city, Suva, is also the commercial and political center of Fiji. However, what few people realize is that parts of this seeming earthly paradise are in danger of extinction. Maria Lozano spoke to Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva, on the Fiji Islands, during his visit to the central headquarters of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the consequences of climate change for his country and the sufferings of the Fijian people.

 

Irene Eschmann (project officer fro ASIA at ACN) with Archbishop Peter Loy Chong (Archbishop of Suva diocese in Fiji)during his visit at the during his visit at the ACN headquarters.

You took part in a conference in Rome related to the third anniversary of the encyclical Laudato Si’ which, among other things, deals with the problem of climate change. Why were you invited to take part in this meeting, and is Suva affected by this phenomenon?

Absolutely. The ocean levels are increasing each year, so the island is disappearing. It is about our homes; many of them will be under water in 50 years’ time. It’s not just a matter of statistics; we can see it with our own eyes. Before, on our island, everyone tried to build their homes near the water. It was seen as a sign of development. The people living close to the sea considered themselves more civilized than the people from the mountains. My grandfather himself built his house just 50 meters away from the sea. The air was good, and it was easy to fish. But now, many houses have to be rebuilt closer to the hills, because the sea is approaching dangerously.

But are these changes simply sporadic? Do they only affect a few people, or are the impacts of climate change affecting all the islands of Fiji?

It’s not just a random event. On the contrary, in the coming years people living in 34 coastal villages in Fiji face upheavals that will force them to relocate their homes, due to the rise in sea level. Fiji’s government has identified these villages as susceptible to the effects of the changes in the next 5 to 10 years. One village in the province of Bua has already been relocated to Yadua and there are plans to move the village of Tavea soon.

Fiji, 20th of May 2018 – Eucharistic Celebration of the Synod Year Launch at the National Stadium in Suva. The Catholic Church Synod is themed “Connecting in Jesus.”

Many people don’t believe that the situation is that serious, including many within the Catholic Church, despite all the commitment of the Holy Father on this subject. What would you say to them?

A little while ago I was editing a statement put together by the Pacific Catholic Bishops Conference. The first draft stated that the ‘Pacific was a sea of opportunities’. I corrected this statement stating instead of opportunities that the sea is life for island peoples. The sea provides food, no just opportunities.The first draft also mentioned that we are learning to live with the negative effects of climate change. This is a weak statement. For Pacific Islanders are suffering from the impacts of climate change. Climate change is a matter of survival.  How am I going to tell my people that they have to “learn to live with this”?

“Our faith teaches us to transform our suffering and anguish into prayer, into pleas that God may hear the cry of my people. For this reason, it is not simply a matter of something external, of economy or politics. It is a question of respect for God and his creation and of alleviating the pain of those who suffer.”

At any rate, some people still find it difficult to understand what is the role of the Church in this sphere. Is it not rather an economic and political problem?

I believe that there are two respects in which the Church plays an important role. The first is that it is a problem that affects the nucleus of our life and our faith – creation, which is a gift, but at the same time a responsibility that God has given us to take care of. And we have to ask ourselves if we are doing this well or not. Secondly, and this affects me much more directly as a pastor, how am I to console, to accompany the suffering that I see in my people? Their cries, their pain makes me think of the psalms of the Old Testament and of how they call on God to hear the cry of his people. For example in Psalm 12 (13), where we pray, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Our faith teaches us to transform our suffering and anguish into prayer, into pleas that God may hear the cry of my people. For this reason, it is not simply a matter of something external, of economy or politics. It is a question of respect for God and his creation and of alleviating the pain of those who suffer.

Pope Francis has spoken of an “ecological conversion”. How would you apply this term? In might sound a little abstract

Fiji, 20th of May 2018 Eucharistic Celebration of the Synod Year Launch at the ANZ National Stadium in Suva. The Catholic Church Synod is themed “Connecting in Jesus.”

The Holy Father speaks of conversion, and I believe that this affects all of us, both at the international level and also at the national level. Our islands are being devastated, our rivers polluted, our trees cut down. The result is that the fish are disappearing from our shores. Now the fish are moving several kilometers away and this in its turn is having repercussions on the modus vivendi of the ordinary people, because now they need boats in order to go out and fish, and this costs money. All this means that the women, for example, can no longer go fishing as they did before. Previously, they stood on the shore and fished for themselves, but now there are no fish in these areas. In other words, the conversion of which we are speaking has to happen at the local level. But in addition there needs to be a conversion of hearts. Ecological conversion doesn’t happen in isolation, the conversion also has to be something internal in the heart of each individual. There has to be a drawing closer to God, respect for his creation, a spirit of solidarity and generosity towards all those who, even if they are far away geographically, are still our brothers and are suffering terribly. My people are weeping; who will dry their tears?

 

What for you personally was the most moving moment of your meeting in Rome?
One of the most moving moments for me was when a young woman, a poetess, read out a poem about how to tell her children about what is happening on her island, about what we are going to say to those who come afterwards. What is this mother going to say to her son in 50 years time? It moved me because, as she was reading the poem, she was so affected by it that just as she was starting to say a verse with the words “my faith…”, she was unable to continue and instead repeated several times over, “my faith”, “my faith” in an attempt to continue with the poem… But she was unable to do so. And I thought this was quite providential – it meant that we ourselves have to finish this poem, we have to complete the phrase: “my faith…” What is the response that my faith gives me in the face of this anguish, of this suffering?

 Support to maintain Nazareth Prayer Centre for Christian meditation in Fiji: Group photo

Oceania, to which the Fiji Islands belong, comprises more than 7,500 sparsely populated or unpopulated islands spread covering an area of about 70 million square kilometers. The Church considers the region with its unusual variety of indigenous peoples as unique. The proclamation of faith among small, young, secluded, culturally and linguistically diverse communities is a challenging yet also enriching task.  The Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need has contributed more than 7.5 million dollars towards projects in Oceania over the last ten years.