Brazil – An appointment with the Pope

ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin BRÉSIL -1-

“I look forward joyfully to this coming July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil!” Pope Francis called out these words on Palm Sunday to the young people of the world. His invitation includes not only the young people from those wealthier nations which can afford the cost of the journey to Rio. “Go and make disciples of all nations” is the theme of this year’s World Youth Day. Young people from all over the world will converge upon Rio and together bear witness there to Christ. And above all the young people from those countries where Christians face oppression and want will be giving a special kind of testimony. But they themselves will also be strengthened in turn by the experience of sharing their faith with millions of other young people. They will understand that they are by no means a minority, but instead belong to the immense family of the Universal Church.

A group of 100 young people from Baghdad will be among those attending the World Youth Day, as representatives of all their peers in Iraq. The fate of the Christians in Iraq is an issue close to the heart of Pope Francis. When the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, Louis Raphael Sako, visited the Holy Father the week after his election and told him of the suffering of Iraqi Christians, the Pope was moved to tears. A thousand Christian martyrs in the space of ten years, sixty churches attacked, fear, death and persecution at every verse and turn… The “appointment with the Pope” will strengthen and encourage these young Iraqis. It will be tangible proof for them that they are not simply a marginalised minority. ACN is helping with a contribution of 20,000 Euros, so that these young people from Baghdad can also respond to the Pope’s invitation.

The young people of Haiti can also do with some encouragement, since theirs is the poorest country in Latin America and one of the most underdeveloped nations on earth. Social violence, natural disasters – including of course the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which claimed over a quarter of a million lives – political unrest, poverty and hunger have plagued this country, which seems to have been spared almost no imaginable suffering. Now young representatives will travel to Rio from all ten dioceses in the country and later returned to share with their friends the fire of their enthusiasm and the sense of being part of the wider, Universal Church. Despair will not be allowed to have the last word; instead, the encounter with the Holy Father and with millions of other young people from all over the world will be an unforgettable experience for them all. Later, in August some of the dioceses in Haiti will be organising their own youth meetings, in which the young men and women who were not able to travel to Rio will be able to share in this message. Consequently ACN is not only contributing to the travel costs of the young delegates who will be travelling to Rio, but will also, with a contribution of 12,000 Euros, be supporting the youth meeting in the Haitian diocese of Jérémie, where almost a thousand young people from the 39 parishes of the diocese will be taking part.

From Egypt too there will be a delegation of young people attending the World Youth Day. Many young people in this country have been disappointed and disillusioned by events at home, where the so-called “Arab spring” has been unmasked as a winter and their hopes have been betrayed. In fact, for Christians in particular, life has become harder than ever. With a contribution of 10,000 Euros ACN has made it possible for 49 young Egyptians to attend, as heralds of new hope for the Church in their country.

BRÉSIL -2-The experience itself is important. Right from the start, faith was a matter of experience. The living encounter, the personal approach, the immediate contact – all this we read about in the Gospels. But it is equally necessary to nourish this enthusiasm with knowledge and to prepare properly for this great event. Consequently ACN is also helping to fund the distribution of a million copies of the youth catechism YOUCAT, which already proved such a great success at the last World Youth Day in Madrid.

Pope Francis is looking forward to the World Youth Day. In his address on Palm Sunday he said, “Young persons, you must tell the world that it’s good to follow Jesus that it’s good to go with Jesus. Jesus’ message is good. It’s good to go outside ourselves to the ends of the earth, and outside of our own existence, to bring Jesus!”

Let us help these young people from the countries where the Church is particularly in need to follow his invitation.


IFHIM – Liturgical Song 2

Today we have the pleasure of offering you a second liturgical song entitled Have No Fear ( text according to Isaiah 43, musical arrangement by Jean- Jean-Baptiste Sarton du Jonchay).

Ne crains pas je suis ton Dieu
C’est moi qui t’ai choisi, appelé par ton nom.
Tu as du prix à mes yeux et je t’aime.
Ne crains pas car je suis avec toi.

Contre-chant :

Va, avec la force qui t’anime
Va vers tous les peuples de la terre
Pour bâtir des ponts de paix
Pour que l’amour soit vivant
Va ne crains pas, je suis avec toi.

Le Seigneur m’a appelé dès le sein de ma mère,
Il a prononcé mon nom
C’est lui qui m’a formé pour être son serviteur
Le témoin de sa paix.


Have no fear, I am your God
It is I who chose you, called by your name.
You have worth in my eyes and I love you.

Have no fear, I am with you.

Go, with the power that animates you
Go to all the peoples of the world
To build bridges of Peace
So that love is alive

Go, have no fear, I am with you.

The Lord has been calling to me since I nursed at my mother’s breast
He spoke my name
It is He who molded me to be His servant
To bear witness to His Peace.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s video of a Latin-American dance!

Czech Republic – Brave pioneers

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

The Carmelite Fathers are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their return to Prague. When they returned after the Communist era, they had to start again from scratch. Father Anastasio Roggero, who serves at the shrine of the Infant Jesus, remembers.CARMÉLITES -2

The man in Tram Number 22 opens his eyes wide in astonishment, as though he has seen a ghost. A procession like this is not something you see every day in the city of Prague! Amid ringing of bells the Infant Jesus of Prague is carried in procession through the streets – past churches, shop windows and Thai massage studios, past cafes, camera-clicking tourists and astonished passers-by. A seemingly endless procession follows behind, singing in praise of the “Jezulátko“, as the Child Jesus is lovingly known in the Czech language. Proudly, the “Little King” sails aloft through the streets on a flower-bedecked litter, his right hand raised in blessing of the city and the globe.

New hope returned for the Church

That such a public profession of faith should be possible today is by no means self-evident. For the former Czechoslovakia was one of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that witnessed the most brutal persecution during the Communist era. All the faithful were subject to reprisals, while great numbers of priests and religious were sentenced to long prison terms or forced labour and their religious houses were dissolved. For several decades the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague stood alone and forgotten on its side altar. The woodworm invaded steadily further into the woodwork of pew and altar in the churches and the bells fell silent. God was officially dead.

Then in 1989 history took an unexpected turn. With the collapse of communism new hope at last returned for the Church. And likewise the Jezulátko was not to remain alone for much longer. For in 1993 Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, who was then Archbishop of Prague, invited a group of Carmelite Fathers from Italy into his archdiocese. Father Anastasio Roggero, from Genoa, who is now 74 years old and will be celebrating the golden jubilee of his priesthood this year, was one of these pioneers. It was to him that the Cardinal entrusted the pilgrimage church where the renowned image resides.

The beginning was far from easy. Father Anastasio recalls: “The church was in an unimaginable state. There were no religious services. Inside the sacristy the family who had the key to the church used to hang out their washing to dry. There was an old worn out piano standing there that the organist had not known how to get rid of. The floor and the cupboards were in a woeful state, and the crypt and the other parts of the church were just a pile of rubble. Father Victor and I had to find space to live, in two small rooms next to the organ, one of which housed the motor that operated the organ. The kitchen was reduced to a minimum and our dining room served at the same time as the office and the visitors’ room.

“Similarly, the former Franciscan monastery in Slány, around 20 km from Prague, which was given to the Carmelite Fathers for their novitiate because there was no space in Prague for the new vocations to the order, was in a woeful state. After the Franciscans had been expelled in 1950, the monastery was used as a prison and workshop and the monastery gardens were used, and misused, as a practice shooting range, rubbish tip, and even as a zoo. So the prior, Father Petr Glogar, and the other Carmelites found themselves facing a virtual ruin when the monastery was handed over to them. But they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Superhuman achievement

ACN helped them at the time with $20,000 for the renovation work and also helped them purchase a car for their pastoral work. Meanwhile, thanks to the hard work of the Carmelite Fathers, the monastery is once more a little jewel of peace and beauty. Around the monastery a lively community, with many young families, has sprung up. And the monastery also serves as a retreat house and thus, together with the shrine of the Infant Jesus, is an important centre of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Prague.

The four Carmelite Fathers in the shrine church in Prague also have their hands full. For over a million people come here each year from all over the world to visit the image of the Infant Jesus. The most famous of these pilgrims recently was Pope Benedict XVI, who in September 2009 made the Infant Jesus of Prague the first stop on his visit to the Czech Republic.

CARMÉLITES-1For the Carmelite Fathers his visit was a “great encouragement”, says Father Anastasio, himself a veritable polyglot who is able to celebrate Holy Mass in at least 10 different languages and welcome almost all the pilgrims in their own mother tongue. Nor does he simply wait for the pilgrims to come to Prague, but also works to spread the devotion to the Child Jesus throughout the world. He has already sent countless copies of the Infant Jesus of Prague to many countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and to the United States, and new shrines are appearing on every continent. Mongolia, Mauritius, La Reunion, the Republic of Central Africa, China, Japan, Burma and Singapore are just a few examples. Even in Pakistan there is now a shrine to the Infant Jesus of Prague. The biggest shrines
to the Infant Jesus in the world are in neighboring India. Hence there are now also two Indian Carmelite Fathers at the shrine in Prague, helping to welcome the many pilgrims.

And so graces and blessings are spreading out from Prague into the entire world. It is now 20 years since the Carmelite Fathers have been back in the capital of the Czech Republic. There is still a great deal to do. The apparent beauty of the church of Our Lady of Victories should not deceive anyone as to the fact that the challenges are still immense, even close on a quarter of a century after the end of communism. But what the Fathers have managed to do since they arrived here is an almost superhuman achievement. “For 20 years we have witnessed the growing number of the faithful who come here from every continent to pray to the Child Jesus and to look for his smile, to implore graces and tell us of their answered prayers”, says Father Anastasio happily.

The bells ring out. The Child Jesus moves on through the streets of Prague, Stalin is dead. Recent history has once again confirmed what the Carmelite nun, saint and philosopher Edith Stein wrote of the Infant Jesus of Prague, shortly before her death in the concentration camp of Auschwitz: “HE is the one who holds the reins in his hand, even if others think they do so.”

Central Africa – Interview with Bishop Juan José Aguirre


Central Africa

“Since the Seleka came to Central Africa there’s been nothing but destruction. They simply fleeced us”.



Raquel Martin & Josué Villalón – ACN Spain

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada


What was the past month like?

It was a very hard, chaotic month. People survived because they fled to the Congo. We’re trying to restore some kind of normality by giving people something to hope for. We’ve started doing a few things to organise our lives. Yesterday, for example, we had some confirmations. There is a further glimmer of hope: two days ago members of the military turned up who seemed to be more serious than those who had come before. The new ones were not intent on looting. They were Seleka, but they belonged to a new generation. To date a Libyan had been in command and he spoke neither French nor Sango. The new Seleka arrested this commander and took away his weapons and uniform. They took him with them, probably to send him back to his own country. They’re taking the weapons away from all those who have exploited the rebellion to loot the country.

What did you find when you arrived in your diocese? How were the parishes, the missions and the churches? Was violence used against the Christians?

 When I arrived in my diocese I found only chaos. The people were fleeing as best they could. Whole families fled to the Congo. People were executed after summary trials; there were rapes, robbery and the systematic looting of the mission stations. These are proper acts of war. In a village near Bangassou the mission station was completely destroyed as were the houses of the Padres and Sisters. About 400 houses were set fire to and nine people killed. At least 50 % of the goods of the diocese were stolen. They took our vehicles. Now we have to go on foot. I go everywhere on foot with my rucksack. The children’s’ clinic, the internet centre, the pharmacy and the garage were set on fire, as were other administrative buildings of the NGOs and other churches. They attacked Christian denominations and in particular the Catholic Church with considerable ferocity.


Were priests, nuns, catechists … killed?

 Thank God no priests, nuns or catechists were murdered. We prayed a lot to the Holy Spirit. Last week the Holy Mass was celebrated to give thanks that we had survived. But outside Bangassou there were summary executions. Adults and children were killed by machine pistol. Since the Seleka came to Central Africa there’s been nothing but destruction. They arrived in the country in December and in April on Palm Sunday they seized the capital. There were about 300 soldiers accompanied by about 3,000 looting mercenaries of other nationalities. They stole cars, radios, solar panels, batteries etc. For the most part they took their loot to Chad, where they sold it on the black market. They simply fleeced us.

 It’s said that the new government intends to set up an Islamic republic. Is this suspicion being confirmed in practice?

 Up to now it has been confirmed day by day. Recently a public holiday was introduced. We learnt that it was to celebrate Mohammed’s birthday. I think that a change is coming about in the countries bordering on Central Africa. France now understands that it was a big mistake to allow the Seleka to take over the country. I hope that the EU will take a decision in this matter. It’s said that about 2,000 soldiers from six or seven free African countries will be coming to pacify the country. These soldiers would be divided up among the country’s different communities in order to pacify them. They are supposed to stay here until 2016, when a democratic election is to be held to determine who the next President will be. The present President is a Muslim. He’s the one who carried out the coup.

ACN has launched a campaign to get emergency relief for the Central African Republic. What does your diocese need in terms of pastoral and material support?

In terms of pastoral support we need cars and motorcycles so that we can travel to the chapels. As I already said, all our cars and motorcycles were stolen. A few days ago we were in the sisters’ house, which had been completely looted. This is one mission station, but we have six mission stations which were completely looted. We need tables, chairs, mosquito nets, bed sheets, cupboards, plates, knives, lamps, cables, solar panels and batteries. In terms of material support we need powdered milk as well as medicines and drugs for terminally ill AIDS sufferers, antiretrovirals. We need help for the families. They are trying to send the children to school again but there is a need for a lot of school materials, pencils, rulers ….. It’s all gone. We also urgently need an internet link-up because this is our lifeline to the outside world. We found the computers completely destroyed on the floor.

And the churches?

At least three churches were looted and even profaned. First they tried to attack the priests and the sisters, and these had to flee. Then they went into the chapels and stacked the pews up to set fire to them. They then broke open the tabernacle and took the consecrated hosts. So we also need help to restore the churches, the images and the pews. Catholic churches and Protestant chapels made of straw were also set on fire. There is a violent hostility towards the Catholic Church. We must bear up, and with God’s help we will gradually rise again and pull our heads out of the water.

As far as the spiritual side is concerned, how do you manage to keep a firm hold on your faith and how do you strengthen the faith of your believers?

We try to work, speak and pray – and we also try to laugh so that our faith remains firm. With the example of Calvary and following the example of the Apostles. We see how they preach, smile and are satisfied with such courage and how they regard it as an honour to have suffered such blows in the name of Christ. These readings from the vespers give us all much courage. In central Africa what is happening is similar to what happened 2,000 years ago: the resurrection of Christ gave the Apostles courage. When they discovered that He had risen from the dead, when He appeared before them and showed them His hands and side, this gave them a lot of courage. But after the resurrection there remain the wounds of the passion, the suffering and the tribulation.

INTERVIEW 3What would you say to the ACN benefactors and in general to all Christians in the world?

If we persist in navel-gazing we will end up like the woman from the Gospel whose back was so bent because she only saw herself. The Church must come out of itself and go to the margins of society, as the Pope says. We must realise that the margins are also the church. I would like to communicate the tribulation we are encountering here because the World Church should feel our tribulation in Central Africa as though it were its own. Then we will be one, as is written in the Gospel according to St. John.

IFHIM – Continued with a dance from Madagascar!


Today, we would like offer you a Madagascan dance which has as theme – Fraternity at the service of Peace (lyrics and music by:  Ny Vininiavoko)

See the shared joy in the picture….please feel free to share the joy with others! Enjoy!


Tomorrow, do not miss the touching video presentation of a spiritual song entitled:  “Here I am Lord”



 Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin

LUNDI 1ALast Saturday May 11th, the students of the Institut de formation humaine intégrale de Montréal (IFHIM), organized, for a second time in 5 weeks,[1] an evening of performances dedicated to peace.

IFHIM is an international center of formation which seeks to put everything to bring forth love and peace in the world.  In order to realize this ambitious objective, IFHIM offers a formation which places the emphasis on personal development issuing from personal experiences with an objective of acquiring a sense of increased autonomy and a greater openness to their environment and to others.  This formation also has an aim to teach their students to collaborate with others that they may provoke changes that bring with them more peace and more life to the people in diverse milieus.  [2]

En route for Peace

Though I knew the departure time of the PAXIBUS on which boarded that night, I was oblivious to the journey we would be taking.  I knew even less about the destination, but that, is another story.  Once on board such a voyage, it is joy that slides beneath our feet and on which we want to surf… for all eternity.

As it began, the animator, Angéline – a Malian Carmelite Missionary, guided us as would an angel – how would she do otherwise with such a name? – To Martine, the driver of the PAXIBUS,  a French sister of the Community of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who were to assure our comfort along the trek.  After explaining to us the safety instructions, Martine invited us to install ourselves carefully and to put on our seatbelts and ready ourselves to be en route for Peace.

 First station:  “We are the same “

We have barely left the station and already we have found ourselves at the first bridge of peace connecting Haiti to Madagascar.  As Kind Organisers who participate in the life of and activities of the village, a choir formed of forty or so students assembled on the scene to sing the Hymn of Peace in Creole:  40 voices, 23 nationalities, men and women in unison.  A propelling beginning!

After which, the PAXIBUS continued on its way than making the trip to Madagascar where a troop of dancers awaited us formed by 6 students, 4 women, 2 men, all Madagascan.  Music, colour, and joy invaded our hearts which began to beat to the rhythms of the motor.

Once the PAXIBUS arrived at its first station, the driver, as if to protect against the enemies of peace, told us a story of the last conflict having taken place on board the PAXIBUS.  By way of a small skit, fifteen or so students simulated the most significant scourges leading to an inevitable quarrel: contempt, scorn, greed, prestige, and anger, as was the thirst for power… these were the stars of this scene divided into three acts where chaos reigned.

Therefore in order to diffuse the various conflicts, the “peace attendants”, ambulance drivers and first aid workers, came running to the battlefield.  Well equipped with the necessary gear needed to awaken one’s conscience, they managed, together, to break through prejudice along with the walls that separate. This space created allowed us to participate in a scene of reconciliation whose secret belongs only to love.  The neighbour no longer belonged to a religion, to a social class or to another race – but simply… just another person, just the same.  The unknown now and forever crossed and emancipated.

Second station: “You are my brother”

Travelling back to Haiti, we had the pleasure of appreciating a festive dance to a song no less delightful than the first, which expressed a wish for unity among all the countries of the world. From there, we crossed another bridge of peace, this one bringing us to various African countries.

Traditional songs accompanied the rhythms of Cameroon, Congo, Senegal and Ivory Coast, each dancer garbed with an ivory smile in the midst of an ebony visage, shimmied in their multicoloured costumes.  If felt as though we were in the middle of an outback, surrounded by supernatural forces.  The dance of only about 10 minutes we could have watched go on forever!  What a pure delight!

Third station: “True riches are found within each person”

Once out of the African jungle, the PAXIBUS committed itself to a very long bridge of peace, this one was meant to bring us all the way to Latin America.  During this long course, we were invited to go within ourselves while listening to the spiritual songs inspired by the writings of Isaiah.

LUNDI 3AThe first, Here I am Lord, like an exhortation to the servants of God to carry the people of earth, thanks to the help of the Lord who changes darkness into light, and hearts of stone into hearts filled with love – invited us into contemplation.  The second, Ne crains rien (Fear Nothing) was an encouragement from God to his witnesses to go always towards all the people of the earth in order to build bridges of peace, lighting a flame of compassion within us.

As if by chance, dovetailed to this song, a Latin American dance entitled: “La cadena”.  This dance expressed the construction of the bridges of peace and was at the very conclusion of a long “uninterrupted chain of encounters” creating throughout the entire room an ambiance marrying unity and complicity; and where the verb ‘to be’ was conjugated with the verb ‘to Love’.  Little builders of bridges for peace will surely be born through the intimacy of this union.

Next station: “You are our Hope”

Are you coming aboard?

IFHIM is one of  many formation projects supported by Aid to the Church in Need benefactors.  If you would like to support this kind of project, please communicate with one of the persons below:

Amanda Griffin, (514) 932-0552 Ext 221–CHANT%20CR%C3%89OLE%20MVI_0771.MOVRobert Lalonde, (514) 932-0552 Ext 224


We would like to invite you to view, beginning tomorrow and for the  whole week until Sunday inclusively, on our blog – video extracts of the performance.

Tomorrow : Song in Creole, a hymn for Peace.

[1] An evening of performances was also held on May 6.

[2] To know more about  l’IFHIM, we invite you to consult their web page:

Central African Republic – “World opinion only interested in dead elephants”

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, AED Canada

Montreal, 23 May 2013 – Father Aurelio Gazzera, a missionary in the Central African city of Bozoum and Caritas director for the diocese of Bouar, bemoans the lack of interest shown by world public opinion in the dramatic situation in the Central African Republic. “In the past few weeks the most important news for the mass media with regard to Central Africa is the killing of 26 elephants by poachers. The innumerable dead and injured plus the rapes and lootings arouse little interest by comparison,” the Italian Carmelite monk stressed when talking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The Central African Republic was, he said, at risk of “being left to its own devices and of becoming a hell on earth.”

A particular cause for concern, according to Gazzera, was the intervention by Chad and Sudan since the majority of the Seleka rebels were foreigners who couldn’t speak the national language Sango but only Arabic. There was no control over the rebels. “Recently the rebels told me: ‘This here is a province of Chad. We’re at war!'”

On top of this there is the growing influence of Islam. Half the new government was made up of Muslims, although these accounted for a mere 15 % of the total population, whereas the proportion of Christians  was 66 %, the missionary claimed. “The victims of the lootings are primarily non-Muslims, and especially the Catholic Church,” Father Gazzera has observed. “This is a cause for concern in a country where the communities have been living peacefully together to date.” The ethnic and mainly religious tensions were intensifying.

Perhaps someone will stop to think and listen to us


The Central African Republic had often suffered coups d’état, the Carmelite Father said sadly. This time, however, the situation was much worse. For two months the lootings, murders, shootings and violence had persisted. The state officials had fled, as had the military and the security forces. Schools and public institutions had remained closed for months. Gazzera: “In view of the 51.4 % illiteracy rate, classes of up to a hundred pupils, a judicial system biased against the poor, politicians who only sought their own advantage and a health service which was only interested in money and not so much the welfare of the sick, I ask myself in the words of the Psalmists: ‘What can the righteous do?’ (Ps 11,3). What is clear is that an immense education effort is required on all levels. And that’s why we don’t intend to leave the country and why we are crying out!”

The Church, and in particular the “voice of courageous Bishops like the Archbishop of Bangui”, were among the few voices who were continuing to stir the conscience of the nation, Father Gazzera claimed. The Central African Republic was a country which “is little known and carries little weight internationally,” he continued.  “If we speak, write and cry out perhaps someone will stop to think and listen to us – and be able to do something! We want to carry on and speak out; we want to work to ensure that such things do not happen again in the future.”

ACN recently granted the Catholic Church in the Central African Republic more emergency relief of $213,000.