Faced with the tragic situations of conflict in various parts of the world, the Holy Father Pope Francis has called upon faithful Catholics to join in a special day of prayer and fasting for peace, this week on 23rd February, the first Friday of Lent. The Pope has also invited non-Catholics and non-Christians to join together with this initiative in whatever manner they deem most appropriate. In his appeal the Holy Father underlined in particular his concern for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and for South Sudan Two African bishops, Bishop Timothy Bodika Mansiyai of Kikwit in the DRC, and Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of the Archdiocese of Khartoum in Sudan, spoke recently to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the crisis their people are suffering.
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On the second anniversary (Monday, February 12) of the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, met in Vienna. A delegation from the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, which has been promoting the dialogue between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches for 25 years, also attended the meeting and presented a documentary work of the extent of the damage and sacrifice of Christians in Syria that was the outcome of a collaborative effort between Catholics and Orthodox.
Until now 35 per cent of the Christian inhabitants of Iraq have returned to their hometowns, as the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) informs after its latest trip to the region. But only 18 per cent of their houses on the Nineveh Plains have been rebuilt, Father Andrzej Halemba from ACN reported, “some only makeshift.” This is the reason why internally and externally displaced Iraqis are currently returning at a slower rate than in the previous months, the head of the Middle East section of the international foundation ACN explained. Since 2017, ACN has channelled its funding to the campaign promoting their return. In view of the current situation, the international Catholic pastoral charity has now approved another five million US dollars in immediate aid for the reconstruction. “If we do not do everything in our power to support this first third of returning Christians, they will leave their towns again and perhaps even the country for good,” Baron Johannes von Heereman, executive president of the ACN, gave voice to his concerns.