Pope Francis. Tag


Press Release: Syria – A plea for peace from a Patriarch

21.01.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN UK, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Pope Francis, Poverty, Prayer, Syria

John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Montreal, Tuesday January 21, 2014 – The leader of Catholics in Syria has issued an urgent appeal to the faithful in Syria – and people throughout the world – to pray for the success of next week’s all-important Geneva II peace conference.




Damascus-based Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III has called on every Syrian Catholic, whatever their circumstances, to pray for an end to the hostilities that have prompted almost nine million Syrians to flee their homes since the conflict began almost three years ago.

Writing in his capacity as President of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs (Bishops) in Syria, the leader of the world’s Melkite Greek Catholics issued a statement Thursday, 16th January, defining his plea for prayers from “my beloved bishops, all our children, priests, monks, nuns, faithful, confraternities, youth movements, families and young people.” In his statement, he appeals to the West to join him and his community in prayers for peace:  “Let there be a global prayer campaign for peace in Syria, the Holy Land, the Arab world and the whole world.”

Patriarch Gregorios’ appeal for an end to the violence comes as latest UN figures show that nearly two-fifths (40 percent) of the country’s 22.5 million pre-war population have now fled their homes – 2.3 million living as refugees abroad, and a further 6.5 million displaced within the country.  In his document, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Patriarch Gregorios states: “We implore [God] to hear our prayers, respond to our cries of distress and the suffering of the victims, and grant us the gift of peace.” He also addresses the mounting humanitarian crisis – exacerbated by one of the worst winters on record.


Also in his appeal, Patriarch Gregorios, who is noted for his peace advocacy work, states: “We beg [God] to inspire the countries and their representatives who are about to meet with the wherewithal for peace, security and a better future for Syrians.” In a separate document released alongside his peace appeal statement, the patriarch emphasizes the need for unity among the international community in calling for peace, and a halt to the influx of weapons to armed groups in Syria.

Initially scheduled for May 2013, the much delayed Geneva II Middle East Conference  in Montreux, Switzerland, is due to begin January 22nd, and involve up to 30 other countries including the US, the UK, France and Germany as well as Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia – the participation of Iran is disputed. The conference is expected to gather representatives of Syria’s Assad regime and the opposition in a bid to end the country’s civil war and pave the way for a transitional government.

Support from Pope Francis

With the hope for a widespread undertaking of his appeal, he states: “We long and pray for the peace to be Syrian though we are grateful to all those countries who are working for that Syrian peace. “The [international community’s] efforts should be concentrated on obtaining a peace that is really Syrian, for that would be true peace and the best and most suitable for all parties to the conflict and for all Syria.”

Credit: Grzegorz Galazka

Credit: Grzegorz Galazka

Patriarch Gregorios has repeatedly praised Pope Francis for his September 2013 prayer vigil for Syria. At the time, the initiative was hailed as a turning-point in the bid to prevent a sudden escalation of conflict in the region with the possibility of direct Western military intervention. The Patriarch also congratulated Pope Francis’ address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday January 13, when he highlighted his hopes for the success of Geneva II.

“It is unacceptable that unarmed civilians, especially children, become targets. I also encourage all parties to promote and ensure in every way possible the provision of urgently-needed aid…,” stated Pope Francis.

In line with its priority commitment to helping persecuted and other suffering Christians in the Middle East, in December, ACN, dispatched another series of aid packages for the Syrian people, including assistance for 215 displaced families in Damascus under the care of Patriarch Gregorios – and emergency support for people from Sadad, a majority Christian town devastated by violence in November and the ‘massacre’ of 45 of its people, as well the mass exodus of thousands of people.

Finally, ACN continues to fund the work of the Good Shepherd Sisters whose clinics such as: the St Antoine Dispensary in Beirut, Lebanon – used by Syrian refugees.  The organization has also provided food, fuel and shelter for displaced Christian families from Syrian towns and cities such as Homs and Marmarita.


Journey with ACN – Uganda

10.01.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, CONSECRATED LIFE, Journey with ACN, Uganda, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.  

Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:  Uganda

Renovation of the convent of the Missionary Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church

By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

The diocese of Lira is situated in northern Uganda, in a region which has been plagued by the country’s civil war for years. The bloodstained conflict, which finally came to its end in 2007, has left many deep scars and wounds behind. To this day, many people are still affected by the trauma of war and live in fear. Since most people were unable to attend school during wartime, their  education is severely lacking, and grinding poverty is also widespread. Many victims of HIV or full-blown AIDS also abide. Help is desperately needed.


The Sisters of the Missionary Institute of Mary, Mother of the Church, are working where otherwise, there are no doctors or nurses to be found.  Since 1993, the Sisters have managed a 178-bed hospital in the remote district of Oyam, which was formerly run by the Comboni Sisters. Under their charge is also a clinic which includes a center for treating AIDS patients. The need in the area is dire and help is urgently required, the Sisters manage to bring a modicum of hope to ordinary people who no one else seems to care about.

However, the 11 religious sisters working here face the imminent prospect of having to give up their missionary apostolate, for the building they live in, built in 1953, was already in a poor state of repair when they moved in.

At the time, the sisters were hoping to be able to renovate. However, they didn’t have the money, and as a result the fabric continued to further deteriorate. The rain pours in through holes in the roof, and termites invade the building eating away at the wood.  Consequently, parts of the roof have already collapsed and it has become clear that the Sisters are in real peril if they continue to stay in the building in its deteriorating state.

The Sisters desperately need  your help, and as their apostolate is such a vital one to the people in the region, ACN has promised them a contribution of $21,900 to help renovate the building.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.



25.12.2013 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Central Africa, Central African Republic, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Novena, Peace, Prayer, Uncategorized


“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.”

Christmas Eve   (Is 9, 2-6)

ACN-20131212-03626“I will spend Christmas in a small village that has been half burnt down by the Seleka rebels (400 huts burnt out), with people who have lost everything – house and home, beds and mosquito nets, seeds and clothing, and yet they have not yet lost their fear. I am going to spend Christmas with them, to weep or pray, to encourage them, to feel and to be with them, to recite the mysteries of the Rosary so that peace may enter through the pores of our skin and reach our hearts, and to tell them that tomorrow will be better, that calm will return after the storm, that the Lord and his Passion on Calvary is the key to understanding what is happening to us, the key to this and to all the tribulations of the world. May he continue to be our rock during the times of the “dark night … “

Mons. Juan José Aguirre, bishop of Bangassou

ACN-20131214-03690Christmas: Christ, God becomes man; He is the Messiah who came to save us from evil, from hatred, from death.

May this Novena be our support for all our brothers and sisters who by their efforts and dedication are striving so that in the Central African Republic – and in other parts of the world – Christmas may be not merely a commemoration, but a reality.

God is stronger than death, than hatred and war. This is what we believe. This is the root of their hope and their striving.

We also hope that the Central African Republic – a forgotten country that few people know – may become news: because it deserves to be, because it is a country full of beauty and of people who deserve not to be forgotten.

 Aid to the Church in Need 



Text by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN-20131212-03621This concludes our Novena for Central Africa, though our prayers for her people go on in our hearts on this day representing the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for uniting with us in this time of prayer, reflection and love for those in desperate need of peace, and for continuing in your prayers with us, and other like-hearted people, for the poor and persecuted Church around the world.

We look forward to connecting with you even more in this way of prayer in 2014.  May you be blessed, today on Christmas day, and every day.  Wishing you peace, for this New Year.

Aid to the Church in Need, Canada


Holy Land: “I can hardly believe I’m in Nazareth”

21.11.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Holy Land, Philippines, Year of the Faith

At the conclusion of the Year of Faith in the Holy Land

by Oliver Maksan, for ACN International

adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada



ACN Montreal, November 21, 2013 – On Sunday morning a radiant sky looked down on the crowd of thousands who had gathered for the conclusion of the Year of Faith in Nazareth. In mid- November the Middle Eastern sun still has no trouble reaching 25 degrees. The visitors were using sunglasses and wearing hats to protect themselves. Here on the slope of the mountain where, according to the Gospel, the inhabitants of Nazareth intended to hurl Jesus into the depths, Pope Benedict XVI had already celebrated Holy Mass in 2009.

The Year of Faith celebrated by the World Catholic Church was instituted on his initiative. The Church in the Holy Land set the year off at Deir Rafat, the shrine of Our Lady of Palestine, and wished to bring it to a close in Nazareth, where Mary received the angel’s message and where the Son of God spent most of his earthly life.

“I can hardly believe I’m here. It means so much to me. After all, it’s not easy for us to come to Israel.”  Like Sami (54) from Jenin in the West Bank, a  considerable number of the faithful had come to Israel from the Palestinian territories and from Jordan. Not all those who had wanted to were granted an entry permit for Israel, however.

Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, the auxiliary Bishop resident in Nazareth and head of the Latin Patriarchate for Israel, expressed his sorrow at this when speaking with the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN): “The Israeli authorities promised us they would be generous when dealing with the visa applications. It’s not always clear to us why some are rejected. But I’m happy that so many of the faithful managed to make it. We even have pilgrims from Iraq here. They have been in Jordan as refugees for the past two years, but even so they are here as witnesses from Mesopotamia, where our Father Abraham began his journey of faith. I think it’s a wonderful sign at the end of the Year of Faith.”

The Israeli police later counted more than 7,000 faithful. Most came from Israel and the adjacent countries. About 1,000 travelled from afar from such places as Japan, Italy, Brazil and Poland. Some  even came from Nigeria. “We wanted quite definitely to celebrate the end of this important year with the local church in the Holy Land,” explained a priest who had come with a group.

“We are all Catholics”

ACN-20131119-02718There were a striking number of faithful from the Philippines. Most of them were volunteers  who had come with their priests to nurse the old and the sick.  Following the disastrous typhoon which had descended in Phillipines causing thousands of fatalities, their country was very much the focus of attention. “It is moving to see how much sympathy we are receiving from all sides. It does us good to be part of the community of faith. After all, we are all Catholics wherever we come from. I therefore wanted desperately to attend this Holy Mass,” was how Maria, who lives in Tel Aviv, saw it.

The Mass was celebrated by dozens of priests, abbots and bishops together with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal. And it was not only clerics of the Roman rite who were present, but also Melkites, Maronites and Syrian Catholic clerics: the Middle East in all its Catholic abundance.

To mark the occasion Pope Francis sent a specific message to the faithful gathered for the occasion. The Apostolic Nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lanzarotto, read it out before the Holy Mass commenced. “The history of our faith,” the Pope said, “starts precisely at the place where you are now celebrating. Before we can understand our own personal history of faith and our need for God’s mercy, we must first turn to the place and time where and when Jesus walked among us. For it was here that the Lord Jesus assumed our human nature and revealed God to us.” Pope Francis also expressed his great admiration for the Christians of the Holy Land, their loyal service to the Holy Places and their unwavering witness to the Gospel.

The faithful were not only connected with the Pope through his words. An icon depicting Jesus and Peter stood in the chancel throughout the Mass. This Sunday it is to be presented to the Holy Father at the conclusion of the Year of Faith in Rome.






Press Release: 600 ACN benefactors, friends and staff make pilgrimage to Rome

30.09.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Father Werenfried van Straaten


ACN, Montreal, September 30, 2013 –  On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth year of Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the international Catholic pastoral charity has organized a pilgrimage to Rome. Six hundred benefactors, friends and staff from around the world will travel to Italy’s capital city from October 1st to the 5th.

On October 2nd, Pope Francis will welcome the participants in a General Audience. Meetings with Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and with Mons. Hon Tai-Fai Savio, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, are also planned.

Father Werenfried van Straaten was born on  January 17, 1913, in Mijdrecht near Amsterdam (Netherlands). In 1934 he entered the Flemish Norbertine abbey of Tongerlo (Belgium). At Christmas 1947, concerned about the suffering of the 14 million refugees in post-war Germany, including some six million Catholics, he wrote in his abbey’s magazine calling for help for the Germans expelled from the East. This set a wave of aid in motion that led to the founding of “Kirche in Not/Ostpriesterhilfe”. In 2011 Pope Benedict XVI granted the charity the status of a Pontifical Foundation.

Syria – Syria is not just a map on google earth

06.09.2013 in ACN Canada, Pope, Prayer, Syria

Marta Petrosillo, ACN Italy

20120604_026 (1)


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

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

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

“More than ever we are in need of prayer”

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

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

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

One million more YOUCATs for World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil

18.04.2013 in ACN Brazil, ACN Canada, Brazil

Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 In preparation for the World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s dioceses and new Catholic movements are given a million additional copies of YOUCAT, the new youth catechism published by the universal Catholic Church.

Jacinto Bergmann, Archbishop of Pelotas, chair of the Bible Commission of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference made the announcement in a letter to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) who has made major funding contributions to the project.

In his letter, Archbishop Bergmann expresses how “the investment will help satisfy a profound “need” in the young generation: to discover the first and last meaning of life through the encounter with Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.”YOUCAT

Aid to the Church in Need has been involved with the project by giving its support since October 2012 for the printing and distribution of 500,000 copies of YOUCAT throughout Brazil. At that time, José Correa, director of ACN Brazil, stated: “Since many in my homeland are looking forward enthusiastically to the World Youth Day 2013, we have arranged for YOUCAT to be printed in Brazilian Portuguese.” The most cost-intensive factor for the project became the distribution of the books throughout Brazil.

According to Correa, the upcoming World Youth Day scheduled to take place between July 23 to 28, this year in Rio de Janeiro, is an important topic among Brazilian young people, especially across the world-wide web, even for those having little or no affiliation to the Church.

“Young people are simply looking forward to it. They love celebrate together. And YOUCAT goes down well. It helps many to get to know the faith, to understand it better or to deepen it,” said Correa.  Statistically, just under 70 percent of the 190 million Brazilians in the country are Catholic. Furthermore, when speaking of its population – Brazil is young – the number of children and young people under the age of 24 is about 42 per cent.

Because the numbers printed of the first special Brazilian edition of YOUCAT was insufficient, additional copies have now been printed to fill the demand.

With the help of this little yellow paperback, hundreds of thousands of young people are preparing themselves throughout Brazil for a unified gathering in the spirit of faith and of youth, and for a much anticipated meeting with Pope Francis.

The printing and distribution of YOUCAT was first funded by ACN for the World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid and thus, there afterward travelling the world over, carrying its message of Faith to young people wherever they may be.