PRESS RELEASE : Ukraine – The Catholic Church is trying to aid the people

Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Koenigstein , 21 February, 2013 Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, ArchbishopMontreal/Königstein – March Monday 2nd – 2015 – The Catholic Church in Ukraine is trying to aid the people regardless of their confession. The Archbishop of Lviv, Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, drew attention to this during a visit to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We look after refugees, provide pastoral as well as material care for the families of soldiers, operate soup kitchens, and we are now also distributing food and medicines to other needy people,” said Archbishop Mokrzycki while looking in briefly after an ad limina visit to Rome.

“Pope Francis listened very carefully to us, the bishops from Ukraine, and he promised to speak out for peace in Ukraine to those in positions of political responsibility and to the international institutions. He also agreed to give us material assistance for our work on behalf of Ukraine,” the Archbishop of Lviv emphasised.

UKRAINE / NATIONAL 14/02434 Support of the Ukrainian Caritas for

The Catholic Church’s aid activities are directed to refugees from the conflict regions in the east of the country as well as to the needy in West Ukraine. The conflict has been made more acute by the critical economic situation in the country. Archbishop Mokrzycki said: “The Mayor of Lviv, for example, addresses himself directly to the Churches again and again, asking if we can help to accommodate such-and-such a number of refugees.

There is great solidarity; Christians of different confessions are coming closer together. Although the people do not have very much, they help one another.” In order to house the refugees, according to the Archbishop, makeshift shanties have now been erected in both East and West Ukraine. ACN supports the Church’s aid activities in numerous Ukrainian dioceses. In recent months, a sum of more than 182 300 dollars has been provided for this purpose.

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ACN Press Release – Egypt “The Church has been strengthened”

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin 

Egypt, Sohag, 17.02.2015Bishop Youssef Aboul-Kheir (Jusef Abul-ACN, Montreal / Königstein – Thursday February 19, 2014. “The Church in Egypt has been strengthened by the murder of our brothers in Libya.” These are the words of the Coptic-Catholic Bishop of Sohag in Egypt, Youssef Aboul-Kheir, on Wednesday (18.2.2015) when talking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The Bishop went on to explain: “Persecution is part of the life of the Church. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. In Europe the Church is free. We, on the other hand, are faced with many obstacles. But which Church is the stronger?” The Coptic guest workers murdered by the Islamic terrorist militia ISIS in Libya were genuine martyrs, the church leader said. “They suffered a holy death with prayers on their lips. They went to their deaths just like the early Christians.”

The Bishop stressed that he had received many telephone calls from Muslim friends after the murders had been announced on Sunday. “They told me that it was their problem rather than ours. It was Egypt and the Egyptians who had been attacked, and not primarily the Christians.” It had certainly been the terrorists’ intention to force a wedge between Christians and Muslims, Bishop Aboul-Kheir said. “But this plan didn’t work, quite to the contrary. Many Muslims are angry because of the murders. President Sisi visited the leader of the Coptic Church to convey his condolences. And the President travelled to the home of the murdered ones. You can see that the attack has united us Egyptians.”

 

On february 15th 2015 the first Catholic church on Sinai peninsuThe urgent problem of church construction

Bishop Aboul-Kheir conceded, however, that he himself was afraid of the extremists in Egypt: “I am afraid of the Salafists in the country. They speak with forked tongues. The Muslim Brotherhood is opposed to society anyway. So there exists an internal danger in Egypt itself.” In view of the imminent parliamentary elections Bishop Aboul-Kheir expressed his concern that individuals with extremist convictions could be elected: “That can happen because many of the candidates are not known to the population.”

It was important, however, that the next parliament should address the urgent problem of church construction, which had to date been subject to all kinds of restrictions. “It is crucial that we Christians in Egypt should finally be able to live as equal citizens,” Bishop Aboul-Kheir emphasized. There should also be a reform of the religious debate on the part of the leading Muslim authorities in Egypt. “The Al-Azhar University is regarded as a moderate force. But in fact there are many things in its teachings and programs which are anything but moderate. For example, the use of force in cases of apostasy by Muslims is justified. This is in contradiction to moderate views. The Al-Azhar University must correct its program,” the Bishop explained.

 

Syria – Before the jihadists arrived

In the coming days, we will offer you a variety of stories which, along with describing to you the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also offer you poignant testimonials from the religious personnel on site and from the people living through this unspeakable tragedy.

You will see, though Syrians have a capacity for resilience which is quite remarkable, their suffering remains a weight that they cannot bear alone.  Prayer, information and action can help them continue to move ahead on their journey, despite the formidable challenges they face. How can you support them?

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#DONATEFORSYRIA


 

Before the jihadists arrived

Despite vast destruction: the Church is trying to improve the lives of people in Syria and strengthen their faith – Aid to the Church in Need provides support

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

The Syrian city of Yabrud looks back on a long Christian tradition. It is home to one of the oldest Christian churches in Syria. The house of prayer, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in the fourth century. “In February of 2014, the jihadists completely ravaged our church. They destroyed the icons, shredded the evangeliary and burnt down the altar. They also stole anything they could get their hands on.” Father George Hadad, for many years the Greek-Catholic priest in Yabrud, is still despondent over the desecration of the church. He held out in the rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border for almost three years. The strategically important city fell under the control of the Syrian opposition very early on.

St. Mayrs Church - Syrian Orthodox in Homs We will come back" i

From that point on, fighting repeatedly broke out between the government and the rebels. Then, in March of 2014, the government army regained control over the city. This was preceded by fierce fighting. “Fortunately, the damage was not as extensive as we had feared. The Blessed Virgin had protected Yabrud. The Muslims of Yabrud are also saying this. They revere the Blessed Virgin just as we do. In fact, we have always got on well with the Muslims of Yabrud. During the occupation there were a few who collaborated with the jihadists. But this was a small minority of uneducated people. The Muslims even helped the Christians to safeguard me whenever I left the house.”

Meanwhile, the jihadists from outside of the city – at times they even included fighters of the infamous al-Nusra brigades, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda – made the lives of Christians difficult. “They said that we worship the cross and that we should therefore remove it from our church. I replied that we do not worship the cross, but the Word of God.” However, the holy warriors of Islam were not convinced. They used explosives to remove the cross from the cathedral in October of 2013. The damage to the church was extensive. “However, we were always able to celebrate mass and the liturgy of the hours. Always,” he said. “Last year, when we returned to the city right before Easter, we used the speakers of the mosque to broadcast the call to prayer on Good Friday. Even Muslims came.”

SYRIA / HOMS-MLC 15/00038Help for Quseir (church, catechism cen

Before the war, Father George reported, about 3,500 Christians lived in Yabrud. “When I was there last year after it had been recaptured by the army, there were only nine left. They fled because of the fighting. However, almost 80 per cent of the Christians have now returned.”

Nevertheless, together with the rest of Yabrud’s residents, the members of his parish are suffering because of the poor supply situation. “We only have electricity and water sporadically. There is also a shortage of heating fuels. There is almost no work to be had. Before the war, Yabrud was a highly industrialized city. There is almost nothing left of this now.” But Father George is convinced that there is a future for the Christians in Syria. “After all, where else could it be? In Europe? The people there have lost their faith through capitalism. And you won’t find the land of milk and honey there, either. If we could only be left alone here, the future could be bright for us in Syria.” Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is supporting Father George and the Christians in Yabrud with such projects as the reconstruction of destroyed residential buildings.

Father George’s archbishop is also convinced that there is a future for Syria’s Christians. Archbishop Jean Abdo Arbach is head of the Greek-Catholic diocese of Homs, Hama and Yabrud. During the past few years, his diocese has suffered greatly due to the conflict. Thousands of his parishioners have had to flee, a large number of churches and church buildings were also destroyed. “The rebels used my residence in Homs as their headquarters until the government took control of the city last year. The cathedral was so severely damaged during the fighting that we had to think about whether it was even worth restoring, or if it wouldn’t be better to simply tear it down and build a new one.” However, the faith of his Christians is more important to Archbishop Arbach than the buildings.

“The faith of the people has deepened. More people are coming to church than before, including children. No one is reproaching God. Everyone knows that the suffering that surrounds us is the handiwork of humanity.” For this reason, Archbishop Arbach’s chief concern is reviving the pastoral life in his diocese. For example, a catechesis centre for 450 children and adolescents in Yabrud is now up and running – also thanks to support from Aid to the Church in Need.

“Thankfully we are able to continue with our pastoral life, despite the difficulties. We thank Aid to the Church in Need for this. Our clergy is doing what they can. I am very proud that the priests stayed with their congregations, even in difficult situations. I trust that God will give us peace through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. At any rate, it is our job as Christians to be the instruments of peace. We have to raise our children to this end.”

 


 

Tomorrow : “It’s the degree of the need that counts”

“Al-Hasakah is a forgotten city. In Aleppo, where I live, the situation is also disastrous. But nobody talks about Al-Hasakah.”

 

PRESS RELEASE – Syria: Aid to the Church in Need pledges 3.27 million in emergency aid 

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By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Königstein/Montreal, Monday, February 16, 2015 – The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has pledged millions in emergency aid in response to the catastrophic situation that has befallen millions of people in Syria after four years of war. More than 3.27 million dollars have been spent to fund a number of projects and to support those in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities who have been hard hit by the war, explained Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East section of Aid to the Church in Need.

Since the outbreak of violence in Syria in March of 2011, the situation of the country’s Christians in particular has deteriorated dramatically: hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have been driven away. Families have lost members, and yes, their entire means of existence. Children and adolescents have been barred from attending school for months, sometimes years at a time. In addition to meeting the most immediate needs, the emergency aid seeks to offer Christians in Syria as well as the entire Middle East new prospects for the future. 

 

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00138 Emergency help for 1200 families from

12.2 million affected

Father Andrzej Halemba said, “We are especially worried about the Christians in Aleppo and Damascus, but also the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Fear is ever present. It is intense, almost palpable, especially since the new so-called Islamic State was proclaimed. Bishop Audo of Aleppo told me, “Aleppo’s Christians are afraid that what happened in Mosul will also happen to them. This is a new, and unfortunately justified, fear of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The Islamic State openly shows its murderous intentions against anyone who does not bend to its brand of extremism. They are proud of their cruelty against ‘unbelievers’ and blatantly fall back on the sword.”

According to Father Halemba, another reason the situation of the Syrian people has become so desperate is because the interest of the international community has noticeably waned and this despite the fact that the European Union has calculated that 12.2 million people are affected by the war in Syria. This brings the number of internally displaced persons to 7.8 million and the number of Syrians living in barely accessible parts of the country or war zones to 4.8 million.

It is estimated that 5.6 million children are directly affected by the war; the number of those who are no longer able to attend school lies at 3 million.

The aid money donated by Aid to the Church in Need has benefited thousands of families living in war-torn regions. The money is being used to provide basic foodstuffs, medicine, and emergency medical care, along with rent for housing as well as heating and electricity. The funds have also been allocated for the pastoral and charitable endeavours of Christians in Syria who are working in various communities to help their fellow Syrians obtain housing and care. For example, for Sisters in Al-Hasakah (Hassaké) in the north-eastern part of Syria by the Turkish border who are providing emergency medical care and distributing relief goods. Or for priests in Aleppo and Damascus who are helping supply the victims of the war with material and pastoral care.


 

Over the next few days on ACN’s blog – aidchurch.wordpress.com – you will have be able to read stories which, along with describing the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also give you access to poignant testimonials from religious workers on site, as well as other people living this unspeakable tragedy.

 

International Prayer for Nigeria – Day 8 – Final Day

PRAYER FOR PEACE IN NIGERIA

 

God the Father our creator, God the Son our Redeemer, God the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier!

We praise and thank you  for the precious gift of Nigeria, which was and still remains a cosmopolitan, multi- cultural, multi- ethnic as well as multi-religious society. Your gift of tolerance, moderation, accommodation and Love for one another were the traits that made great this people and this society.

Sadly though, in recent times, they have been plagued by political, ethnic and religious crises and have suffered the destruction of lives and property. We humbly ask for the gift of reconciliation, that we forgive each other. Heal the wounds with the radiance of your love and mercy.  Teach us to live in peace and harmony.

May their leaders be instruments of love, peace, tolerance, social and economic development. Help them to be selfless in service and to lead their people in the path of dialogue and reconciliation, so that they can truly be one family, working for the common good. May dissenting views be a source of harmony and peaceful coexistence! Bless and provide for their youth and help them to be peace loving.

Distribution of relief materials to Internally Displaced Persons

 

Lord may the weapons of evil, hatred and violence be silenced by love. May we enjoy unity and stability as your children who live, move and have our being in you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

O Jesus prince of peace: be merciful, restore permanent peace to the world and, these days especially, to Nigeria, from north to south.

Our Lady Queen of Peace: Obtain for us peace in our hearts, peace in our families, peace in our countries.

Amen

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Journey with ACN – Russia

© Aid to the Church in Need

JOURNEY WITH ACN is  our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week:   Russia

Extension built for an addiction rehabilitation centre

 It all began with a few individual cases. One after another, young people with drug problems came to speak to Father Sergij Belkov in the confessional. The addiction was nothing new for a former police detective. But now, as an Orthodox priest, it was also clear to him that it was not, first and foremost, a medical or a sociological problem but above all, a sickness of the soul.

Most people very quickly come to realize that the path of drug abuse is a false one. It is like “living in the grave,” one person tells him; feeling “no longer human,” says another. Both descriptions reflect one and the same phenomenon. The way out of the vicious spiral of drug addiction has to begin with this recognition, and with the will for conversion.

Since 1996, Father Sergij has been running a drug addiction rehabilitation centre in Sapjornoje, around 65 miles (100 km) from Saint Petersburg, in the almost untouched natural environment of the Finnish-Karelian frontier. He takes each of these young men in, like the father taking in his prodigal son. Some of the members of his parish are also strongly supporting him in his work.

One woman who helps him describes how she is astonished time and again by the transformation that takes place in these young men, aged between 18 and 28.

ACN-20131125-02925

Learning to be part of a family

“In the first few days they are always aggressive and surly and do not even look you in the face. But very soon a real “transfiguration” takes place from within – with God’s help and through the love and family warmth that is radiated by Father Sergij, his matushka and all the helpers and residents of the centre.” Structurally, the centre is set-up like a normal, healthy family, with Father Sergij as the loving, but strict head of the family and his wife as mother and example. The more senior residents represent the older brothers and sisters, who help to train and educate the junior members.

A new member to the family is only introduced once per month so as not to upset the equilibrium. Life in the centre is marked by prayer and work, obedience and observance of the Orthodox Church fasts – and it is no coincidence that it is ordered very much along the lines of the monastic life.

Right from the start each person has his particular tasks. There is agricultural work (cattle, pig and poultry rearing and vegetable gardening) and building work too. There are opportunities to learn trades – as a carpenter / joiner, roofer, bricklayer… Initially they work with a master tradesman, and then over time, they work independently.

Dozens of young men have already found help in this centre holding a maximum of 18 residents at any one time where they can stay for up to a year, and in some cases even longer. On weekends, they take part in parish life and come to grips with questions of faith. They learn – often for the first time in their life – something of the basics of their faith, and at the same time they learn to take responsibility for their own lives. In this way, both physically and psychologically strengthened, they are able to return to their own families, and in many cases even establish families of their own.

Sapjornoje was the first such Orthodox centre of its kind in Russia. Its success rate of around 75% of former addicts permanently recovered has vindicated Father Sergij’s approach and brought widespread recognition and imitation throughout the country. At the same time, the centre in Sapjornoje continues to grow steadily.

The centre is intended to be self-supporting, and indeed it manages very successfully to be so. Nevertheless, again and again there is a need for major investments, which the centre cannot (yet) afford to fund.  Therefore, in past years, ACN has helped with the purchase of kitchen equipment and furniture, and helped with funds to build the extension and also for the establishment of a joinery workshop, a bathhouse and laundry facilities; a building to accommodate the training staff and helpers in the centre, and also for the renovation of a wooden church which had been partly destroyed by fire and was originally been built in the 1990s by the residents themselves, with their own hands and with great love and attention to detail.

Now Father Sergij is asking for our help, once again. This time, he needs help building the extension of the existing complex in Sapjornoje. The intention is to build a storeroom, a small clinic/ hospital wing, and also some cattle stalls, as well as carrying out repair work on the existing buildings.

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ACN staff have already been on the spot and seen for themselves the outstanding work done at this centre – and we are therefore proposing to contribute $70,000 to support the cost of the required work.

International Prayer for Nigeria – Day 7

PRAYER FOR PEACE IN NIGERIA

 

God the Father our creator, God the Son our Redeemer, God the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier!

We praise and thank you  for the precious gift of Nigeria, which was and still remains a cosmopolitan, multi- cultural, multi- ethnic as well as multi-religious society. Your gift of tolerance, moderation, accommodation and Love for one another were the traits that made great this people and this society.

Sadly though, in recent times, they have been plagued by political, ethnic and religious crises and have suffered the destruction of lives and property. We humbly ask for the gift of reconciliation, that we forgive each other. Heal the wounds with the radiance of your love and mercy.  Teach us to live in peace and harmony.

May their leaders be instruments of love, peace, tolerance, social and economic development. Help them to be selfless in service and to lead their people in the path of dialogue and reconciliation, so that they can truly be one family, working for the common good. May dissenting views be a source of harmony and peaceful coexistence! Bless and provide for their youth and help them to be peace loving.

Lord may the weapons of evil, hatred and violence be silenced by love. May we enjoy unity and stability as your children who live, move and have our being in you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

O Jesus prince of peace: be merciful, restore permanent peace to the world and, these days especially, to Nigeria, from north to south.

Our Lady Queen of Peace: Obtain for us peace in our hearts, peace in our families, peace in our countries.

Amen

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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.