Marta Petrosillo & Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
During 2013, the benefactors of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) donated a total of $117, 408, 249 USD. It is the second largest amount ever raised in the charity’s history. “A veritable miracle, considering the difficult economic times,” commented the Head of the international projects Department of ACN, Regina Lynch. “Thanks to the generosity of so many people, we have been able to say yes to a full 5,420 requests for financial aid from all over the world,” she adds. The projects funded came from no fewer than 140 different countries, and above all from those places where “the Church suffers persecution or outright discrimination.” Over one third of the aid given went to the Middle East and to countries such as China, Pakistan, Cuba and Sudan. “There are many places where Christians are forced to worship in hiding, in which their every movement is monitored, or where the Church cannot receive any economic support from abroad, or indeed have any visible presence whatsoever,” Miss Lynch explained.
At the international level the aid granted can be broken down into the following categories: help for building projects 37.4%; Mass Offerings 17.6%; support for theological formation 12.5 %; for catechesis 10.3%; for motor vehicles and transport 6.9%; for the biblical apostolate 5%; for emergency aid 4.5%; for basic subsistence 3.7% and for the media apostolate 2.1%.
Compared with the year 2012, the emergency aid more than doubled, mainly as a result of the conflict in Syria. “Our priority in the Middle East is with the over 2.5 million Syrians refugees and the more than 7 million internally displaced,” explains Father Andrzej Halemba who is responsible for the section dealing with the countries of the Middle East. In fact the majority of the requests received by this pontifical foundation from this area are projects on behalf of refugees – an area in which the intervention of the Church is essential. Many of the refugees, and in particular the Christians, refuse to register as refugees with the United Nations because they are afraid that their details and identity may be revealed. “The Church is the only organization they trust and their sole point of reference,” Father Halemba explains. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis ACN has donated over 4.7 million USD to projects for the support of the internally displaced in Syria and the Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The year 2013 was also a difficult year for Egypt, where last August dozens of churches and other Christian buildings were attacked by sympathizers of the former president Mohammed Morsi, who accused them of sympathizing with the Army. ACN helped the victims of the anti-Christian violence with a special contribution of 40,800 USD, and it is currently funding the rebuilding of a number of the churches and other buildings that were destroyed.
Last year the continent that received the largest percentage, once again, of aid from ACN was Africa, to which approximately 32% of the allocated funds were sent, the bulk of which was used for construction projects. Among these was the construction of the new major seminary in Juba, in South Sudan, which was partly funded by ACN. Exceptional aid was also, not surprisingly, sent to a Church in the Central African Republic, for which again almost 657,142 USD were allocated. “We have made numerous contributions of emergency aid,” reports Christine du Coudray, who heads the Africa Section – “in support of the refugees and the courageous work of so many priests and religious who continue, in spite of the danger, to stand by the people and support them.”
Another type of project much appreciated in Africa is the funding of essential vehicles for pastoral work (last year ACN funded 448 vehicles). A means of transport is essential in a diocese the size of those in Africa. It also enables the priests and bishops to go out and meet the faithful, without having to wait for them to find their way to the sacristy.
In 2013, an international delegation of ACN representatives visited the North of Nigeria, where they met some of the victims of the attacks by Boko Haram. The purpose of the visit was to understand how ACN can help the Church in this martyred region of Africa, especially through its support for religious formation. This is another priority area for ACN, which last year approved 1,249 projects for scholarships, the training of catechists and other lay formation courses. Last year our pontifical foundation was able to help one in every 11 seminarians worldwide to continue their studies, by providing financial support for no fewer than 10,972 of the 120,616 seminarians around the world. This year the continent from which we received the largest number of requests for scholarships for priests and religious was once again Asia (40%), followed by Africa (25%), Latin America (21%) and Eastern Europe (14%).
Asia was the country that received the largest total sum in support, namely India (5 659 731 USD). “The political situation in India is extremely worrisome,” reports the head of this Section, Véronique Vogel. “And the Christians are very much afraid of the rise to power of the ultra-nationalist and Hinduist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”
The pontifical foundation, ACN, has continued to support the persecuted Church in China, this year with a total contribution of almost 780,956USD. “We are subjected to every kind of pressure, and we cannot celebrate Holy Mass every day,” one Chinese believer wrote to ACN, “but Jesus is always in our hearts and, thanks to the generosity of your benefactors, we can now finally have a new church.”
After India, the countries which received the largest proportion of our aid were Ukraine (5,562,286USD) – with considerable help from ACN for the local Church during the recent dramatic months – Brazil (4,086,907USD), the Democratic Republic of Congo (3,442,200USD) and Russia, where the support given by ACN was divided between the Catholic Church (1,391,440 USD), the Russian Orthodox Church (648,137 USD) and ecumenical interfaith projects for both churches (429,772USD). The last included funding for Christian cultural and media initiatives which, as Peter Humeniuk, the head of ACN’s section for the Russian Federation explains, “make a real contribution to ecumenical dialogue.”
Also notable was ACN’s support for Bosnia and Herzegovina (1 745 653USD), “a nation in which there is real concern for the future of Catholics,” as Magda Kaczmarek, who heads the section concerned, explains.
In the poorest countries a particular form of aid that makes an enormous contribution to the work of the Church is that of Mass Offerings. Frequently, these are the only real sources of income available to priests. In 2013 ACN benefactors gave no less than 1,229,993 Mass Offerings to approximately 43,000 priests (one in every 10 worldwide). This translates to around 3,206 Holy Masses celebrated each day (or one every 25 seconds) for the intentions of ACN’s benefactors. They were celebrated in Africa (40.15%), Asia (15.86%), Latin America (15.86%), Eastern Europe (16.65%) and Western Europe (2.39%).
The year 2013 was also the year of the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to ACN support, it was an event in which hundreds of young people were able to participate from countries where the Church is in need, such as in Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Egypt, for example. Also to mark the occasion of the World Youth Day, ACN funded the publication of YOUCAT, the youth catechism, in a number of different languages, and also donated 1 million copies in Portuguese to the dioceses of Brazil.