Journey with ACN – Papua New Guinea

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:  Papua New Guinea

Support for the pastoral program of the Archdiocese of Port Moresby

By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Papua New Guinea covers an area roughly the same size as Spain, though it has just 6.7 million inhabitants. The territory also extends over more than 600 islands, which can only be reached by air or by boat. Where it is not possible to travel by air, by boat or by car, the priests and pastoral workers have to travel on foot. This is also the case when travelling to the Archdiocese of Port Moresby, which was established in November 1966. Since then. not only has the number of Catholics grown steadily in Papua New Guinea, but the social importance of the Catholic Church in the area has greatly increased.

Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, is something of a melting pot. Having grown steadily over the years, it is now home to people from a number of different origins and ethnicities, cultures and religious persuasions, as well as languages spoken.

“The 600,000 or so inhabitants, of whom many are Catholics, come from every part of the country, as well as from neighbouring countries and from overseas,” emphasizes Archbishop John Ribat. Since taking office in March 2008, he has launched a pastoral program that continues to operate to this day. “In order to prevent this variety from degenerating into division, we want to strengthen the sense of togetherness within the archdiocese and build on the spirit of solidarity among the faithful and their priests, and between the various parishes and other pastoral groupings,” he adds.

There are an estimated 300,000 Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Port Moresby. This number is but an estimate because there are no reliable statistics. The diocese is subdivided into 19 parishes and also maintains 100 primary and secondary schools, as well as two hospitals. In some cases the distances between the individual parishes are considerable. In the past there was little contact between the various parish priests on account of the very poor infrastructure. But now, and at the express wish of the priests themselves, all the 70 priests of the diocese (roughly 2 of 3  belonging to religious congregations) regularly meet at the archbishop’s house to exchange ideas and experiences.

“As a result, the understanding of the various demands on the pastoral ministry in the parishes has grown, whether in the country or in the town,” the archbishop reports.

There is also closer co-operation and coordination between other initiatives within the archdiocese such as : a service of medical volunteers helping in the field of health care for mothers and their children and in alcohol prevention; this, according to the vicar general, Father Roderigo Campilan, is supporting hundreds of people and benefiting thousands of others. A coordinator for Catholic education who will supervise the teaching of the faith and the religious instruction has also been appointed, both for the Church schools and state schools.

ACN is supporting this three-year pastoral program with a contribution of $54 000.


PRESS RELEASE : Bosnia – Bishop Komarica calls for end to discrimination against Catholics

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada



Montreal, November 28th, 2013 – “Politicians from the West must put pressure on Bosnian politicians so that Catholic war refugees can also return to Bosnia at long last,” Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka demanded when talking to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. Bishop Komarica is also Chair of the Bishop’s Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Catholics from the territory of the present Bosnia and Herzegovina are ethnically Croats. Politicians must ensure that their basic rights are respected, the Bishop stressed.

To date Croats had not been placed on equal footing with the two other ethnic groups living in the country,  Bishop Komarica explained. “From the funds provided by the international community to enable former refugees to return Catholic Croats have not received a cent for years. Nobody raises a voice in their support.”

Significant decrease of Catholics

According to the Bishop, more than 4,000 families were willing to go back, but at the present time they had “no guarantee for a sustainable return, no houses, no work, no electricity, no roads, no medical provision and no schools.” Having a Croatian name was often a drawback when someone was looking for work. “Very many Croats have held passports which make them citizen of the European Union since Croatia joined the EU, but in Bosnia they are citizens with no fixed basic rights,” Bishop Komarica complained. “For many of the disenfranchised Croatian Catholics, especially in the entity of Republika Srpska, hardly any of the local politicians take up their cause. But in the past few days some promises have been made which arouse hope for better times for at least some of these disadvantaged people.”

The Bishop believes that, on top of this, the unstable situation will mean foreign investments will fail to materialize. “This country, which was divided unnaturally and unjustly into two by the Dayton Accords in 1995, is sinking into social and political chaos. The only future prospect we see is of a chaos controlled by the EU and the USA. But the entire post-war practice shows that life can’t function like that. This is a betrayal of European values and principles, a failure to comply with international agreements and a disgrace both for the domestic politicians as well as the international politicians who are responsible for Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Komarica states.



The Church’s past and present demands were clear, the Bishop stressed. “Croatian Catholics must finally be put on an equal footing with the other two ethnic groups. They must be allowed to return from abroad and possibilities must be created for them to build up a life in their hometowns.” For its part the Catholic Church had been attempting for years to contribute to a harmonious common life in the country through social and educational projects. One example was the Church-run European schools, which were open to children from all ethnic groups and religious communities. These schools, which had been supported by “Aid to the Church in Need” from the very beginning, received more applications than they could accept, he explained.

According to figures supplied by the Catholic Church, of the approximately 835,000 Catholics who had been living in Bosnia-Herzegovina prior to the war fought between 1992 and 1995, only about 440,000 were living in the country today. In the entity  Republika Srpska the number of about 220,000 had fallen to only about 11,500 today.  In October this year a census was conducted for the first time in 22 years and in a few months it will yield information on the current figures. According to unofficial estimates Catholics account for approximately 10 % of the population.

Nigeria – There is no peace for Nigeria



Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

There is no peace for Nigeria. While in the north of the country the conflict with the Islamic terror group Boko Haram is worsening, the people in the south are increasingly the victims of environmental pollution and social injustice, the ignorance of their rulers, economic mismanagement and corruption.

Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo drew attention to this in a meeting with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Bishop Egbebo, who has headed the Apostolic Vicariate of Bomadi in the Niger Delta since 2009, described the situation there in these words: “The government does not care about the people, only about itself.”

Amid the wealth of oil, children die of malnutrition

The population is largely excluded from the opening up of the rich oil reserves in the south of Nigeria. Instead they bear the burden of the unrestrained exploitation of resources. In the rivers of the Niger Delta, says Bishop Egbebo, there are practically no fish anymore: “The cause of the drastic decline is the severe pollution of the Delta due to oil extraction as well as overfishing. There are too many nets.”



As a result, fishing as a traditional means of livelihood is disappearing. According to Bishop Egbebo, in order to secure an income the people try to obtain crude oil, process the raw material into petrol and sell it, although the government tries to prevent this. Bishop Egbebo: “The conditions of life in the Vicariate are very, very poor. Children die of malnutrition, the quality of the drinking water is really bad. There is a lack of everything, of hospitals, schools, and good moral training and education.”

According to Bishop Egbebo, some three million people live in the area of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bomadi, among them some 30,000 Catholics. The majority of the population belong to traditional religions as well as to Pentecostal churches. Bishop Egbebo: “There are forms of Syncretism and simple preaching. Those who do not achieve wealth are in league with the Devil. Even the closest of relatives are accused. This fosters hatred among the people, not love. But we should even love our enemies. This is the theology that we must preach. Only love will win.”

The Apostolic Vicariate of Bomadi has 35 priests. For pastoral care in the 25 parishes they are reliant on vehicles, and especially on boats. But there is a shortage of both. Bishop Egbebo nevertheless plans to establish more parishes as quickly as possible, and build schools and further medical care facilities. The Vicariate currently runs a small hospital with 20 beds. Bishop Egbebo: “The people trust the Church. We can do a great deal to improve their situation. We lack means, but we will continue to try.”

Journey with ACN – Russia

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: Russia

“If you want to find God, then go to the children’s hospice”

 The first children’s hospice in Russia celebrates its 10th anniversary

The first ever hospice in Russia for children with terminal illnesses is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The project was started by the Russian Orthodox priest Aleksandr Tkachenko, who came recently to visit the international headquarters of the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in the town of Königstein, near Frankfurt, Germany, to say thank you for the support supplied by ACN for the start-up of this project. “Thanks to your help we have been able and continue to be able to do a great deal for a great many people. We Orthodox and Catholic Christians are united in our love of God and neighbour. It is our vocation to pass on to others the love of Christ.”

Russie -1The hospice was founded in 2003 as a response to the needs of terminally ill children and their families, who until then had not received any kind of adequate help in Russia. Father Tkachenko, who had done special training in the United States as a hospital chaplain, recognised that “something needs to be done in this field as soon as possible in Russia too”. And so an institution was established, in collaboration with specialist doctors and psychologists, where “terminally ill children can be helped to play and to learn and to live a full life, right up to the end”.

At the same time, families who are caring for their sick children at home are provided with medical, psychological and pastoral support. The pastoral aspect is especially important, Father Alexander observes. “We don’t preach at the sick bed, but in such a situation people come to us with so many profound questions, and as priests, we try to help them to find inner peace.”

He explains that the priests are not there “to lecture” such children, but can instead “learn from them”. Such terminally ill children have “a deep awareness of God” and by their experience in confronting death actually become “teachers of the priests”. Last year, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill had visited the hospice on his birthday. “Although he was only meant to be visiting for ten minutes and had important people waiting for him, he extended his visit to 2 hours.” Afterwards, the Patriarch told journalists, “If you want to find God, then go to visit the children’s hospice.” Now another such children’s hospice is being established in the Moscow region, at the express request of the Patriarch. Once again it is being supported by ACN.

Speaking to ACN, Father Tkachenko emphasized the fact that both Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch were in agreement that the Church must minister to society. “She must not simply build churches, but must be committed to people. I like Pope Francis very much, because he is pastoral in a natural way. He is someone who even as a bishop went about on foot and helped people. That’s something I like.”

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

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.






Holy Land – A positive appraisal of the Year of Faith

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada


Msgr Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

ACN, Montreal,  November 21, 2013 – At the conclusion of the Year of Faith in the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, expressed his satisfaction. On Sunday he told the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) in Nazareth (Israel): “It has been a time of grace. Of course the passing on of faith will not end with this year, but will hopefully be continued with greater fervour. We are therefore very grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for his initiative in instituting the Year of Faith.”

©AED/ACN 7 000 faithful travelled to the Holy Land

7 000 faithful travelled to the Holy Land

The Patriarch also expressed his joy that believers from the Palestinian territories and Jordan had been able to attend the Holy Mass on Sunday in Nazareth at the conclusion of the Year of Faith. “I hope they will be taking many stimulating thoughts home with them after this beautiful event.” At the solemn divine service conducted in the open more than 7,000 believers from the Holy Land, the adjacent countries and all over the world had gathered. According to the Israeli ministry of tourism about 1,000 pilgrims had come from overseas.

In response to a question from “Aid to the Church in Need” concerning the date for Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Holy Land next year, the Patriarch said: “It’s certain that he will be coming but not when. We have to wait and see.” Pope Francis had been invited by Patriarch Twal, by the President of Israel and by the Palestinian Authority. He had accepted these invitations for 2014. Observers assume that the visit could take place in the first half of the year because the term of office of Israel’s President Shimon Peres ends July 2014. Accordingly a date between March and May is seen as probable.

Syria – Pray and work for Syria’s future!

Reinhard Backes, ACN International



Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

In a dramatic appeal, Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus has appealed to Christians around the world to show solidarity with the Christian faithful in Syria. We publish the text of Archbishop Nassar’s appeal in full below, which he addressed to all who were present at the celebration of Holy Mass during a visit to the headquarters of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Königstein, Germany.

“Dear Sisters and Brothers!

           My country is in a very difficult situation. There has been war here for three years, and it is destroying the whole country. Two million houses and homes have been destroyed – which means that 2 million families are without a roof over their heads. The people feel lost and without support.

           People are afraid! They want to get away! And yet all the embassies are closed. So they are dying where they are, in solitude and silence. And since all the cemeteries are already full, our only project for 2014 is to build a bigger cemetery.

           But Christian hope lives on! With the help of ACN we are now preparing for the future, for the rebuilding after the war and for an ecumenical collaboration among the Christian Churches and all the faithful in the orient.

           Secondly, we want to work together with Islam. For 14 centuries we have lived in its shadow. If we want to continue to live in the future, then it can only be together. That is a great challenge, but we can succeed in it.

           Thirdly, we want to give young people more weight in the Church and place more emphasis on the social teaching of the Church, because this also touches on our work with non-Christians.



           In order to prepare for the future we have sent one seminarian to Lebanon. By 2020 he should have completed his training and then be able to help rebuild the Church once more.

             I entrust Syria to your prayers! May God bless you! “