Press Release – The Nuncio in Israel explains the program for Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle East

Papal visit to the Holy Land: “Not a traditional pilgrimage”

Montreal, Friday March 28, 2014  –  In view of the publication by the Vatican on Thursday of the program for the Papal visit to the Middle East, the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Delegate in the Palestinian territories, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, stressed in Jerusalem that the visit was not a conventional pilgrimage as conducted by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The journey, scheduled for 24 to 26 May would be very short and it was therefore not possible to fulfil the many expectations held, the Nuncio explained.


Rather, central to Pope Francis’ journey is the memory of a meeting fifty years ago between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, the Nuncio went on to say when he met the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. “That is the principal purpose of the Holy Father’s visit,” the Papal Envoy stressed.

First to Amman, then to Bethlehem


The Holy Father will begin his visit in Amman in the Kingdom of Jordan, the Nuncio said. After a courtesy visit to King Abdullah II, he will celebrate Holy Mass in the Amman stadium in the afternoon. For security reasons not more than 20,000 people will be able to take part. Then the Pope will go to the place on the Jordanian side of the River Jordan where Our Lord was baptized, the Nuncio continued, and there he is to meet Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as sick and disabled persons. One is talking here of about 400 selected individuals. The Nuncio said that the Pope would spend the night in the Apostolic Nunciature in Amman.

On the morning of May 25, the Holy Father is to then fly in a Jordanian helicopter directly to Bethlehem. In Bethlehem he is to be received by the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the presidential palace. The Pope will travel in an open car from there to Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, where he is to then celebrate Holy Mass. The Nuncio went on to say: “This is the only opportunity for people to see the Pope close-up. In Jerusalem this will not be possible.

“But even here he will not use an armoured vehicle. The Holy Father rejects this as a matter of principle because in his view it indicates fear and sends people the wrong message.” Unfortunately only about 10,000 people will be able to take part in the Holy Mass since Manger Square cannot accommodate more, Lazzarotto explained.

This Mass will also serve as the central ceremony for all Catholics in the Holy Land, both those from Palestine and those from Israel. “Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis will not travel to Nazareth and will also not conduct any divine services in public in Jerusalem. We will therefore have to concentrate pastorally on this Mass as best we can. But we must respect the fact that this time the prime consideration will be the meeting with the Patriarch Bartholomew.” After celebration of Holy Mass it is planned that the Pope has lunch with a number of Palestinian families in a house belonging to the Franciscans.

Welcome of the president, meeting with the Patriarch


Following a time of private prayer in the Church of the Nativity and an encounter with Palestinian refugee children, the Nuncio continued, the Pope will then fly in a Jordanian helicopter to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, where he will be officially welcomed by Israel’s President Shimon Peres.

From there the Pope will be flown in an Israeli helicopter to Jerusalem. After his arrival the Pope will initially go to the Apostolic Delegation, where he will meet Patriarch Bartholomew to sign a joint declaration. In the meantime his entourage will enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. “Thereafter the Pope will meet the Patriarch again at the entrance of the Holy Sepulchre. Symbolically both are coming from different directions in order to jointly enter the church and visit the site of the crucifixion on Calvary as well as Christ’s grave,” stated the nuncio. There, prayers are to be said and speeches will be held. When asked whether he expected concrete gestures on the part of the two church leaders, the nuncio said that this should be left to the Pope and the Patriarch to express their aspirations in this holy place.

“We must allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. I am sure that the ecumenical meeting will bear rich fruit as did that between Paul VI and Athenagoras. This will give fresh impetus to the unity of Christians, not least with a view to the pan-orthodox synod scheduled for 2016. Both will ensure that this event is not an isolated one,” the Nuncio said.

From the Temple Mount Jerusalem to the Cenacle



He went on to explain that the first day in Israel would be concluded by dinner for the ecumenical delegations in the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem’s old city. The pope would then spend the night in the Apostolic Delegacy in East Jerusalem.

According to the Nuncio Monday is to begin with a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where it is planned that the Pope will meet the Mufti of this Islamic shrine. Then the Pope is to proceed to the Wailing Wall. Pope Francis will follow the obligatory program intended for state guests to Israel. This includes a visit to the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial. “For two years now the protocol of the State of Israel has also provided for a visit to Mount Herzl, where the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, is buried. The Pope will therefore also go there,” stated the nuncio.

After meetings with the Chief Rabbis, the President and the Prime Minister the Pope will meet privately with the Ecumenical Patriarch on the Mount of Olives. It is planned that the Holy Father then meets with members of religious orders and priests in the Basilica of Gethsemane. After that, the Nuncio continued, the Pope will celebrate a private Mass with the Bishops of the Holy Land in the Room of the Last Supper, the Cenacle. “In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI was only able to recite an Angelus here,” the Nuncio added. This will conclude the Pope’s Middle East visit and he will fly back to Rome that night.

No future for Christians without peace

Meanwhile Nuncio Lazzarotto warned against having excessively high expectations in connection with the visit. “It is a mistake to assume that the Pope will be able to solve all the problems of the region simply by coming here. But his visit is a prophetic sign, and it will certainly release fresh energy in the people here and give them new hope.”

VISITE PAPE 2The Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, expressed a similar view. He told “Aid to the Church in Need” in Nazareth that the Pope would certainly address the topics of peace, reconciliation and justice. “The future of the whole region is based on this. Without peace there can be no future for us Christians,” Marcuzzo stressed. He continued that Pope Francis will certainly also mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as had Benedict XVI. “The position of the Holy See on this question is clear. We do not get involved in politics. The parties to the conflict must come to an agreement. But the Church stresses justice and human rights.” According to Marcuzzo the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the mother of all conflicts in the region.

The Bishop criticized the fact that under the new Israeli protocol the Pope will have to visit Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. “The visit to the grave of the founder of Zionism could project a bad image to the Arab world.” In any case, Marcuzzo views Israel’s perception of itself as a Jewish state critically. “This automatically makes Christians and Muslims second-class citizens.”

Israel is also sending contradictory signals, he added. On the one hand it is conducting a dialogue with non-Jews, and on the other there is a lot of discrimination. It has to be said, however, that Pope Francis is regarded very positively in Israel. “The Pope is being accompanied by a Rabbi and an Imam,” Marcuzzo continued, “and that is a good sign.”


Journey with ACN – Rwanda

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:    Rwanda







Help for the construction of a guesthouse for the Carmelite nuns in Nyamirambo

The Carmelite sisters in Nyamirambo’s convent on the outskirts of the Rwandan capital of Kigali, is a place of silence and of prayer.

Time and again people are drawn to this atmosphere, wanting to spend a few days withdrawn from the world to find their way back to God. More and more priests, religious and laity are requesting the opportunity to have retreats here. However, the Carmelite sisters are not in a position to accommodate visitors, for they simply do not have the capacity and – owing to the happy circumstance that they have many vocations – they need all the available space for their own community.

In order to resolve the problem, the sisters began building a separate guesthouse in 2001, which included 24 rooms. The convent is situated in a beautiful location:  a hillside with a view of Mount Kigali and Mount Rebero. It is a perfect place for their visitors to find rest and renewal, both in body and in spirit. The centre will also provide some employment for local people, such as cooks and cleaners for example, giving them an opportunity to supplement their family income. And for the Carmelite sisters themselves the guesthouse will at the same time be a precious and much-needed source of income.

The first phase of the construction has already been completed, thanks to the help of ACN. But now the sisters need more help to complete the work. They write, “The Child Jesus is urging us to turn to you in trust and seek your help.”

We have no doubt that our benefactors will not disappoint these good nuns, and so we have already promised $133,650  to help them complete their work on this oasis of peace and prayer.


To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.



Nigeria – Mass of courage

Testimony of faith in city under attack

 By John Pontifex, ACN UK

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

More than 2,000 people in northern Nigeria risked their lives by turning out for Sunday Mass March 16, while their city was being bombed. Describing St Patrick’s Cathedral, Maiduguri, as “packed”, Father John Bakeni, the Mass celebrant, said people told him afterwards that if the attacks worsened they would prefer to die in church than anywhere else.

Sunday’s Mass took place after suspected Boko Haram extremists launched one of their biggest armed campaigns of recent months, firing rocket-propelled grenades and mounting a massive assault on a military barracks.

Hundreds died in the attacks, which were repulsed by the Nigerian military, but there were growing concerns about the government’s capacity to hold back the extremists.

In an interview Monday, March 17 with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father John Bakeni said: “Yesterday morning there were a lot of bomb explosions but that did not seem to deter people from coming to church. It was a very humbling and edifying experience to see so many people at Mass. The place was packed. When it came to the homily, I said to them that there was no need to preach. I told them: ‘Your presence in such large numbers is a homily in itself.’ ”

The priest ACN to call on the world to pray for the people of Nigeria: “Please pray that this violence will stop.”  In an earlier message, he described the start of the attacks early on Friday, March 14and stating: “We were greeted with the deafening sounds of bomb explosions, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. There was confusion and pandemonium everywhere.”

Hundreds of insurgents, dressed in military fatigues, struck at Maiduguri’s Giwa Military Barracks and succeeded in releasing fellow fighters held in the cells there. Further attacks took place against residential areas and a university campus, an assault typical of Boko Haram, which literally means “Western education is forbidden.”

“We are all living in fear, looking up to God and counting on your prayers”

Boko Haram has declared its enemies as the Nigerian government, education institutes and the Church as well as moderate Muslims.  In military clashes that went on for more than four hours, more than 200 insurgents were reported dead following a massive drive by the Nigerian military to flush them out.

But both Sunday and Monday, Father Bakeni and others reported that the enemy forces had “regrouped” and were mounting further attacks amid increasing concerns that Maiduguri was on the point of falling to the extremists.

There have been reports of “connivance” between the extremists and certain elements within the Nigerian military, which, it is claimed, explain the latter’s failure to foil the enemy.

“We are all living in fear now, looking up to God and counting on your prayers,” said Father Bakeni, “the [Nigerian] military are doing their very best but they lack modern weaponry to counter these guys who are far more sophisticated. Thank you and all those at Aid to the Church in Need for your prayers and support at this trying moment.

We really feel the strength of people’s support both within the country and outside.”

The attacks on Maiduguri coincided with violence reportedly carried out by Fulani Muslim herdsmen against Christian villages not far from Kaduna, in northern Nigeria’s Middle Belt.  At least 100 people are reported dead in the attacks on the evening of March 14.


“Aid to the Church in Need” grants Catholics in Ukraine emergency aid

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

 March 21, 2014 – The international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” ACN is granting the Archdiocese of Kiev and the Crimean Diocese of Odessa-Simferopol emergency aid totalling $ 92,550. Two thirds of this sum is needed among other things for care of the sick, psychological assistance and medications. One third will be made available to military chaplains for petrol and other transport costs, especially for transfers between the mainland and the Crimean peninsula. “In view of the persisting critical situation in Ukraine, the Archdiocese of Kiev and the Diocese of Odessa-Simferopol have asked us for support,” Magda Kaczmarek, head of the relevant national section, confirmed. Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Pyl of Odessa-Simferopol had earlier made a dramatic appeal to all parties to the conflict in Crimea to renounce violence.

 Bishop Pyl’s actual words were: “I am calling on all the people both faithful and the others that in the name of the solidarity with the heritage of our Fathers, who cared for the development of our Autonomous Republic of Crimea, to stay away from extremisms and in this hard time do not let the brotherhood among Crimean people to be broken. In ARoC we have Ukrainians, Russians, Crimean Tartars, Armenians, Poles, Germans, Czechs and many others living peacefully together. For many centuries we had the Orthodox, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Karaims, people of other denominations together with atheists living in Crimea. We cannot let our ethnical background nor our religion to divide us now. We are children of the same God; the only God, who is our common Father.”

Journey with ACN – Argentina

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:    Argentina


Catholic Radio Programs

ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


ACN founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, had many ingenious ideas for bringing the Church to those who could not get to church themselves, for among other reasons, they lived in regions where churches did not exist, and where priests could rarely reach.

He responded with a remarkable idea: to put the Gospel on wheels! Chapel trucks were born – and later Chapel boats. Mobile and floating churches. Nevertheless, it was clear to him that even so, it remained seeming impossible to reach all the faithful in every place.

That is why the media apostolate, and especially the radio apostolate, was an idea very dear to Father Werenfried‘s heart. Inexpensive transistor radios are affordable and obtainable almost everywhere in the world today. And in this way, the Good News can penetrate even into those regions that are most difficult, if not impossible, to access.

In places where the Church has such radio-based missions – even as far out as the steppes of Central Asia – one might see nomads sitting around the radio in the evening, praying the Rosary. But of course there are many others too for whom such a radio apostolate can the a true source of inspiration and a way of complementing more traditional methods of pastoral ministry.



The realisation that radio can be a sort of “pulpit”, from which the Word can be disseminated to millions, was something well understood by our present Pope Francis. When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he established the communications centre of Our Lady of Lujan, for Argentina, also has its remote and impoverished regions where it is not physically possible to provide an adequate pastoral ministry to the faithful. Moreover, there are also many, while formally belonging to the Catholic Church, have little understanding of their faith and do not go to church, and cannot be reached via the usual parish ministry. Also in play are the increasing anticlerical tendencies in society that are attacking Christian values, which can hardly go unnoticed, and the culture of every day life.

In order to help the Church in these many challenges that are facing her in Argentina, ACN is supporting this Catholic ministry of the airwaves with a contribution of $12,000.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Ukraine – “For the first time in the history of contemporary Europe, in a European country, people are dying for the European flag, for European values”

By Mark von Riedemann, ACN International

Adapted AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Thursday, March  20, 2014 — “We believe that Ukraine is a breath of fresh air for Europe,”stated Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak and Professor Myroslav Marynovych, former Gulag political prisoner. “Ukraine is not a trouble spot, but a partner offering a vision – a reminder of the original European spirit: youth, dynamism, and a profound belief in the principles and values that found the European project. The Ukrainian youth carries this vision, and have been martyred for this same hope. What is Europe’s answer to them?”

© Council of the EU

© Council of the EU

Maidan, the space for political expression on Independence Square in Kiev, and replicated in scores of Ukrainian cities and communities worldwide is in fact an “Agora,” a place to discuss, exchange ideas, create consensus. “The Maidan movement, encompassing all levels of Ukrainian society and all religious traditions, said Myroslav Marynovych, is not ending. There is no going back. It is the voice of the people calling for profound change in Ukraine – not simply to rotate the faces in a quasi-Soviet political structure – but a movement to see true democratic structures in place as in the tradition of European democracy. The opportunity that Ukraine and the ongoing democratic processes present might also be an example to Russians as how to move towards democracy.”

Bishop Borys Gudziak concluded by saying: “We see a great historical shift, a deep movement within the Ukrainian society – a passage from fear to dignity. In fact this revolution is called the “Revolution of Dignity.” The resistance to the Yanukovych regime helped people claim their dignity; the invasion of Crimea is helping the people claim their sense of national identity.”

“In these days of heavy political decisions, we came to the EU to help them help us,” said Bishop Gudziak, “to let them know how young Ukrainians are the best guarantee for Europe’s peace and prosperity.”

Bishop Borys Gudziak, the Greek Catholic Eparch for France, Benelux and Switzerland, and Professor Myroslav Marynovych, a leading moral authority in Ukraine, are respectively President and vice-Rector of the Catholic University of Lviv. With the support of Aid to the Church in Need, they were in Brussels to update policy makers about the situation in Ukraine, the reality on the ground and the potential impact of Europe’s immediate and future policy decisions.


Syria “Christians are living in fear but don’t want to leave their homeland,” states the archbishop of Homs


For immediate release

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada




ACN, Montreal – March 19, 2014 – In spite of an uncertain future, Christians in Syria want to stay. This was the message conveyed by the Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Hama and Yabrud, Jean Abdo Arbach, when he visited the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN). In the Archbishop Abdo Arbach’s exact words: “We Christians are living in fear, the future is uncertain, but we want to stay in our homeland.”

Despite reports to the contrary, the 61-year-old native Syrian said, 20,000 Christians of various denominations currently live in Homs close to the northern Border of Lebanon, and about 200,000 in the Homs region. Many of the faithful, including Melkite, Greek-Catholic, Syrian-Catholic, Maronite, Greek-Orthodox and Orthodox, have now returned to the city of Homs, according to the Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop.

Remaining Christians are made to knuckle-under to rules

“The situation in and around Homs is calm. Government troops have almost complete control over the region and the rebels control four to five districts. The main fighting is taking place in the cities of Yabrud and Hama,” according Archbishop Abdo Arbach, who intends to stick it out in Homs. He claims that the news coming from the north of Syria, which is controlled by the rebels, is alarming. According to this, Christians are made to knuckle under to rules. Archbishop Abdo Arbach says: “Firstly Islamic law is to be applied, secondly all Christian symbols which are publicly visible are to be destroyed and thirdly Christians who wish to remain will in future have to pay a special tax.”

In the presence of the ACN Executive President, Baron Johannes Heereman, the archbishop expressed his gratitude for the organisation’s support: “Aid to the Church in Need’ in particular has done much to ensure that we can regularly support many families, the parishes and priests. For the faithful it is important that their priests and their Bishop bear the suffering and persevere like everyone else.”