This year, the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), is celebrating its 70th anniversary as well as the 100th anniversary of the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima, to whom the charity has been consecrated.
The international executive president of Aid to the Church in Need, Baron Johannes Heereman, explained: “From the very beginning, this charity has been a miracle: it has given countless people the strength to forgive and to show unconditional magnanimity and grew out of a belief in Jesus Christ as well as the staunch conviction that the gospel holds the truth. Today, our charity continues to bear witness to the living God when hundreds of thousands of people all over the world support our brothers and sisters in the faith in His name.”
The pastoral charity was founded in 1947 by the Dutch Norbentine priest, Father Werenfried van Straaten. From the very beginning, the focus was on fostering reconciliation as well as bringing about the love of one’s enemies that is called for in the gospel. This can be seen in the fact that the charity, which initially began as an aid campaign to help German refugees after World War II, was launched in Belgium and the Netherlands of all places, where the population had suffered greatly under German occupation. The aid for the “enemies of yesterday” was thus not only intended to alleviate the immediate distress of the people, but also to overcome hatred, foster reconciliation in a ravaged and hostile Europe and at the same time become a “school of love” for those who bestowed the aid.
(Fatima, 14th of May 1992: Fr Werenfried stands in front of the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima © Aid to the Church in Need)
The pastoral charity rapidly grew and extended its activities to encompass the countries behind the Iron Curtain as well as those in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Over time, it primarily began to focus its efforts on supporting the pastoral work of the Catholic church in areas where the church had become the object of retaliatory measures or lacked the necessary means to fulfil its mission. Next to providing material aid, one of its primary concerns was giving the persecuted “Church of Silence” a voice.
The Catholic pastoral charity is closely linked with the message of Fatima and was consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima 50 years ago and on other occasions since then. Father Martin Barta, the international spiritual assistant of the charity, explained that the founding of the charity should be considered within the context of the October revolution and the appearances at Fatima. He continued by saying that Aid to the Church in Need has in the meantime “grown into a global spiritual movement” that calls for a “rebellion of the heart”. This “revolution” is not based on the “false myths of godless communism or humanistic relativism, but on the reality of the cross of Jesus Christ, His Pierced Heart”.
Aid to the Church in Need is consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima because Fr Werenfried van Straaten considered the foundation of the charity to be in response to the message of Fatima. The “total rebellion against God”, which first culminated in the October revolution in Russia and initiated persecution against the church of a severity that has yet to find its equal, still continues today in various forms throughout the world. Aid to the Church in Need is an immediate answer to the Mother of God’s call to convert and turn to God. “As a pontifical foundation, we would like to intensify our efforts in helping the church carry the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary all over the world,” Fr Barta said.
(Fatima, 14th of May 1992: Fr Werenfried and Jan Cardinal Korec of Slovakia, stand either side of Sister Lucia, the sole surviving visionary at the time to witness the 1917 Marian apparitions in Fatima © Aid to the Church in Need)
Today, Aid to the Church in Need supports more than 5,000 projects each year in over 140 countries throughout the world. Currently, one focus of its efforts is helping persecuted and threatened Christians in the Middle East and preventing the purging of Christian communities from the cradle of Christianity.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
On Line donations can be made at www.aidtochurch.org