Pope Francis calls on the Catholic faithful to support the work of Aid to the Church in Need
Pope Francis gave his personal support to an awareness and fund-raising campaign organised by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) to mark the Pontiff's Year of Mercy. ACN's "Be God's Mercy" was launched on 17th June in Rome 2016. The Pope personally associated himself with the campaign through a video message, highlighting the work of ACN.
In his timeless message, the Pope called on people to "carry out works of mercy together with ACN in every corner of the world, in order to meet the many, many needs of today". ACN projects supported during the Be God's Mercy" campaign included prison ministry, drug rehabilitation centres, support groups for women and help for refugees. In his video message, the Pope said: "I am entrusting these works to Aid to the Church in Need."
The very first benefactor of the campaign was Pope Francis himself who entrusted a donation to ACN to assist the Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, when IS forces invaded Mosul and the surrounding villages of the Nineveh Plains in June 2014. The gift of the Pope went to assist the work of the St Joseph's Clinic in Erbil, which offers free medical care to around 2,800 refugees of all religions who fled from IS in Iraq.
The Pope asks all of us to follow his call for works of mercy. At ACN we seek to support those who give their lives at the service of mercy: the men and women of the Church - priests, sisters, either active or contemplative, and laity - those who dedicate their energy to serve others to overcome their needs. Often reaching out to those who cannot or will not be reached by others, they feed the poor, heal the sick and console the sorrowful, keeping them in their prayers and carrying them by sharing the Good News.
Help Religious Sisters - the unsung heroines in the Church!
They smile, they heal, they teach, they comfort. Around the globe Catholic religious sisters quietly perform their dedicated and heroic service without remuneration and barely even noticed by the wider world. But in order to help others, they themselves also need to be helped, for although they are ministering angels to so many, they themselves still need their daily bread and a roof over their heads.
Each year the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) supports over 10,000 religious sisters in every corner of the globe. Many religious congregations turn to the charity for help, not least for the formation of their precious new vocations. While many congregations in the Western world have few or no new vocations and even seem to be dying out, in other parts of the world the religious communities are filled with young and smiling faces.
It is vital that the indispensable work of religious sisters in Christ's Holy Catholic Church and throughout the missions worldwide continues. Religious sisters, like Sr Annie Demerjian pictured right, are the unsung heroines in the Church. ACN is therefore proud to help them in their efforts to make the world a better place. The average grant ACN gives to support a religious sister or novice is $300 - but whatever you can afford will be enormously appreciated. ACN forwards the donations directly to the religious superiors in charge of the religious communities and congregations.
Anyone able to help this cause with a $20 donation or more will be sent a set of complimentary Vatican rosary blessed by Pope Francis.
To support this cause and to receive the complimentary Pope Francis rosary please click on this link. You can also call the office of Aid to the Church in Need on 02 9679-1929 and give your donation over the phone.
"Their Faith Is Our Hope" - Please help the work of the Church in Africa where the number of believers in the African church has quadrupled over the last 35 years
Africa is a continent with about 1.112 billion inhabitants, 215 million of which are Catholics. The average age of the population is 19. True to the charism of solidarity with the persecuted church Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) would like to draw attention to the suffering of Christians in several African countries that are directly affected by Islamic terrorism. These include Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad. At the same time, ACN would like to highlight one of the most serious problems for the continent's future: the hidden, but constant infiltration of Islamic fundamentalism into other African countries where, up until now, Christians and Muslims have been coexisting in peace and harmony. This alarming news is being conveyed to ACN by missionaries and local clergy from various African countries.
The peaceful coexistence of the religions in Sub-Saharan Africa lies in the balance. Without the reconciliation and forgiveness work the church carries out in countries such as Nigeria, the Central African Republic or Tanzania, the spiral of violence and hate would have had unthinkable, devastating consequences. For this reason, ACN is supporting projects that focus on interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding. However, ACN believes that the Gospel itself still bears the most powerful message of peace. To establish peace in Africa, the best investment is ensuring the unfaltering presence of Eucharist and Gospel through the work of priests, religious sisters and catechists. It is also important to note that the violence and suffering of the African people is not only rooted in Islamic fundamentalism. Corruption, oppressive regimes, ethnic conflicts and power struggles as well as natural catastrophes have time and again required that the Catholic church take on a fundamental, often heroic role in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite all difficulties, the number of believers in the African church has quadrupled over the last 35 years, growing from 55 to 214 million. According to the latest statistics of the Catholic church, Africa ranks first in the world in terms of growth in the number of Catholics (46%). It is also a very young church. After all, the church only became established in many countries as recently as 200 years ago. Together with Asia, Africa is the only continent to report an annual growth in vocations to the priesthood.
To learn more about the work of Aid to the Church in Need in Africa and to donate to help this cause please click HERE
Please help Christians being Persecuted for their Faith
Imagine having your house daubed with a Cross or a big 'C' for Christian, knowing that your house was about to be targeted and taken. This is what happened in Mosul - and the Arabic letter 'N' equating to Nazarene was daubed on Christian properties by Islamist terrorists of the Islamic State. Now a city which had up to 60,000 Christians eleven years ago has no Christians - they have had to flee, after being told to convert or face the sword. It is estimated that 100,000 Christians have since fled Mosul and the surrounding villages of the Nineveh Plains to seek refuge in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq (Ankawa, Dohuk & Erbil). For the first time in 1,600 years no Mass or any Christian service has been celebrated in Mosul since the IS militants forced the Christians to flee. Churches have been detonated and set ablaze, converted to Mosques and all crosses torn down - with ancient tombs desecrated and destroyed.
Thanks to the generosity of the benefactors of the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), these uprooted Iraqi Christians now have access to food, lodging and even schooling. These families have at last been able to leave their makeshift shelters, in camps, public buildings, and especially schools, where they were crowded together, sometimes 20 people to a room.
Fr Halemba, the head of the ACN projects section for this region, explains: "This ancient Christian community, which dates back to biblical times, is in danger of disappearing for ever. They have already suffered so much. Now we have a unique opportunity to help them with what they need to get through these difficult times" The Chaldean archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil has thanked all the benefactors of ACN.
Archbishop Nona, who was among the 500,000 people forced to flee in June 2014 from the forces of ISIS, was in charge of the bishops' emergency committee for coordinating the aid relief effort. He wrote at the time: "I am personally grateful to ACN - you have given us new hope". The archbishop, who is now the Eparch of the Chaldean Diocese in Sydney, has called on all people to pray for Iraq. "Please pray for the safety of our people and that no one else will be murdered by the terrorists. And we must also pray for those who are persecuting us and for an end to the evil that seems so strong at this moment".
The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has in place an ongoing campaign to support to the work of the Church for the Christians of Iraq and Syria, helping tens of thousands of displaced people fleeing persecution from IS militants.
A donation of whatever you can afford will make a difference to our brothers and sisters in Christ suffering persecution in Iraq and Syria.
You can also call the ACN office on 02 9679-1929 and give your donation over the phone or send it via the post.
Persecuted & Forgotten? - A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2015-2017
The persecution of Christians is worse than at any time in history - but it is being largely ignored by the UN and the international community, according to ACN’s latest report. The new Persecuted and Forgotten? report, concludes that the persecution of Christians reached a high water mark in 2015-17 - with growing attacks on the faithful by Daesh (ISIS), Boko Haram, and other fundamentalist groups. According to the Aid to the Church in Need report, the international community has failed to adequately respond to the needs of Christians attacked by militant extremists.
Persecuted and Forgotten? states: “Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway. If Christian organisations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East." The report also identified growing problems in certain majority Islamic countries and authoritarian states such as Eritrea and North Korea. Report editor John Pontifex said: “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution."
Although the report found in the countries under examination that many faith communities have suffered at the hands of extremists and authoritarian regimes, it concluded Christians have experienced the most hostility and violence. The report supports this claim with a series of examples showing the extent of the problems facing Christians in each of the 13 core countries it assesses in depth - as well as providing an overview of the state of religious freedom for the country’s various denominations. For instance, the report found that members of China’s 127 million-strong Christian population have suffered increased persecution following new attempts to bring Christianity in line with Communist ideals. More than 2,000 churches and crosses have been pulled down in China’s coastal Province of Zhejiang - and clergy are still being routinely detained by authorities.
During the campaign of genocide by Daesh and other Islamist militant groups in the Middle East, Christians were disproportionately affected by the extremists. In Iraq, more than half of the country’s Christian population became internal refugees and Syria’s second city of Aleppo, which until 2011 was home to the largest Christian community, saw numbers dropping from 150,000 to barely 35,000 by spring 2017 - a fall of more than 75 percent. Despite national governments and international organisations having determined that a genocide has taken place, local Church leaders in the Middle East have repeatedly said that they feel forgotten by the international community. A number of bishops in the region have accused the UN of overlooking the needs of displaced Christians, despite pledging to deliver aid “neutrally and impartially".
At a time in the West when there is increasing media focus on the rights of people regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality, it is ironic that in much of the secular media there should be such limited coverage of the massive persecution experienced by so many Christians. The pervasive nature of persecution and evidence implicating regimes with whom the West has close trading and strategic links mean that it behoves our governments to use their influence to stand up for minorities, especially Christians. No longer should Christians be sacrificed on the altar of strategic expediency and economic advantage.
To read the Executive Summary of the report click HERE
To view a video about the report click HERE
Religious Freedom in the World - Report 2016
The Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, produced by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, warns of the global impact of "a new phenomenon of religiously-motivated violence", which it terms "Islamist hyper-extremism".
The full report - complete with continent analysis - is available only on the web.
To view a short video about the report click HERE
The help ACN provides for religious sisters around the world
For many people, women religious are the visible face of the Catholic Church. Around the world they are responsible for a whole range of vital pastoral and social initiatives. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the service they render. Frequently they work, without remuneration, in places where no one else wishes to go or help. They belong to many different religious communities and congregations - charitable, contemplative and missionary. Around the world these women care, quite literally, for everyone and everything - for children and adults, for orphans, the sick and the dying, for those who are lost and for those who seek, for the victims, the violated, the traumatised.
Despite the numerous challenges and difficult conditions, the number of callings in Africa has grown by 28% and in Asia by 18% over the last years. This extraordinary growth of professed sisters has given rise to increasing requests from novitiates world-wide to ACN in support of formation and professional training.
ACN over the last ten years, has provided over $16.6 million for contemplative sisters, $71 million to active sisters and $3 million for the formation of novices.
Madagascar: Mass offerings for the 70 priests of the diocese of Morondava
Having a Holy Mass celebrated for a particular intention is a long and venerable tradition. The offering, given to the priest by the person concerned is in no sense a "payment", but rather a gesture of love and gratitude and also of financial support for the individual priest who in the words of Consecration in Holy Mass once more makes present the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar. For many priests in the poorest countries of the world these Mass offerings are in fact a crucial means of survival.
This is certainly the case in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world. The diocese of Morondava is materially poor, but it is rich in priests. In the last 10 years, in fact, the number of priests in the diocese has more than tripled, from 20 to 70. As a result, the diocese has even been able to send some of its priests to another recently founded diocese in the country and also to the island of Reunion, where the bishops were in need priests. Moreover, there are another 50 young men from the diocese of Morondava who are currently training for the priesthood.
This rapid growth in priests in the diocese is partly due to the fact that a number of religious congregations have been established there. But at the same time Bishop Marie Fabien Raharilamboniaina is convinced that this boom in new vocations is also the fruit of prayer. He himself has written a special prayer for numerous and holy priestly vocations, and the Catholic faithful and especially the children are also praying regularly for their priests. Bishop Marie tells us, "We are convinced that prayer leads to new vocations. A vocation is the fruit of prayer, and therefore we are insisting in all our schools not only on speaking about God but also on the need to give the children themselves the opportunity to speak with God in prayer".
In other ways too, the bishop is deeply committed to his priests and to supporting them in living out their vocation. He tells us, "I invite my priests to embrace the promise that Jesus himself has made and rely upon divine providence. As Saint Teresa of Avila once said, "Take care of God's work, and God will take care of yours". "I also tell my priests that the People of God will care for them". And each year he invites all the priests of his diocese to take part in spiritual exercises, ongoing formation sessions and a diocesan pilgrimage, and he regularly visits the parishes so as to help them in every possible way.
The local Christians also help their priests as well as they are able, yet they too are poor and the priests need additional support in order to be able to continue their own spiritual formation and take part in retreat days and the like. And while the faithful themselves have little, the priests often do not even have the most basic means of subsistence; they don't have enough to eat, they need support for accommodation, they often have to travel on foot. Hence they often have to turn to their bishop for help. Fortunately, thanks to the Mass offerings offered by the generous benefactors of ACN, Bishop Marie Raharilamboniaina is able to provide some material support for his priests.
"We thank God for the priests who bear witness to His love in our diocese of Morondava and we thank all our generous benefactors for their love for our priests", the bishop writes. "Our priests see you as a sign of divine providence".
The Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the 70 priests of the diocese of Morondava with Mass offerings for a total of $30,000 or in other words with roughly $435 per priest per year.
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929
Click here for past weeks' featured projects
Catholic News: Reports for you to read about the work of Aid to the Church in NeedPlease note that you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader (AAR) to view these reports. You can download AAR free of charge from the net by going to the Adobe website. To open a report simple click on the cover of the report you are interested in.
ACN is unique from other Catholic Charities as it offers pastoral assistance and Catholic news to the Church wherever she is poor or suffering under Christian persecution.
Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153 ABN: 62 418 911 594
Ph/Fax (02) 9679-1929 e-mail: email@example.com web: www.aidtochurch.org