Press Release – New ACN Website

MCL National Director

Praying, Informing and Giving

By Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Montreal, Friday February 2015 – “ Concerned with better serving our generous benefactors, of providing better communications tools to the public and engaged with encouraging people to PRAY, INFORM and GIVE to help poor and persecuted Christians in the world, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada is proud to present its new website which will be operational as of this coming Monday, March 2nd,” declared with enthusiasm Marie-Claude Lalonde, the National Director of ACN Canada.

“More than ever before,” continued the director,” the situation of Christians in too many countries merits recognition on a large scale.  We hope that the news stories we disseminate through our website will touch our visitors’ hearts, and persuade them to help their so often forgotten brothers and sisters.”

The site which can be visited at is abundantly illustrated with striking pictures, poignant firsthand accounts and content also often exclusive to Aid to the Church in Need.

ACN which is today an international organization numbering over 600,000 friends and benefactors who support each and every year close to 5,000 projects in over 150 countries.  Now operating as a foundation of pontifical right, ACN and its benefactors offer concrete help, through a spirit of love, everywhere where the Church needs them.




Growing fears for the safety of Syrians

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Iraq, June 2010Father Emanuel Youkhana in his officePhoto: CAACN, Montreal – Wednesday, February 25, 2015 – Fears are growing for the safety of more than 100 people taken captive yesterday (Tuesday, February 24) as the extremist group Islamic State (IS) seized Christian villages in Hassake governorate, north-east Syria.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who works in support of persecuted Christians in the region, received a telephone update on the situation from a contact in Hassake city around midnight last night and relayed the latest information in a message sent to Catholic agencies, including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), early this morning.

He wrote: “The 24 families from Tel Gouran, 34 families from Tel Jazira, and 14 fighters (12 male and 2 females) from Tel Hormizd are captured and taken to the Arab Sunni village of Um Al-Masamier.” Up to now, the number of people making up the abducted families, has not been confirmed.

“They are alive so far, but the men are separated from women and children.”

An urgent need of action

Commenting on how some local Sunni Arabs had assisted IS, he said: “Um Al-Masamier is another Syrian example of what we witnessed in Iraq on how the Arab Sunni joining and supporting IS to attack their long years Christian and Yezedian neighbours.”

Archimandrite Youkhana went on to describe the latest situation in the various villages: “The 50+ families in Tel Shamiran are still surrounded. It is unclear if IS will attack the village? Can PYD [Democratic Union Kurdish Party] fighters change the situation before the village been taken by IS?”

He reported that in Tel Tamar a car bomb exploded, but no casualties were reported. Three mortar shells were fired into Tel Nasri from the other side of Khabour River. Again no casualties were reported.

PYD fighters have retaken Toma Yelda hill, which is of strategic importance. Archimandrite Youkhana wrote: “By now, only around 200 families are still in Khabour region, more than 100 [are] in Tel Tamar and others [are] in different villages not controlled by IS. Around 1,000 families from Khabour are displaced in Hassake and Qamishli.“

“His Grace Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel [of the Assyrian Church of the East] who resides in Hassake and hasn’t left it despite all difficulties, is doing his best to host and support the displaced. However, due to the lack of resources and the long years of the disaster, there is an urgent need of action to support the displaced families through the Church.“

Archimandrite Youkhana added: “Our thoughts are with the suffering people. We pray for an end to this long history of persecution in our countries.”

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





Journey with ACN – Argentina

© 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:   Argentina

Support for 91 religious Sisters in Añatuya

Aid to the Church in Need has been helping the diocese of Añatuya for many years now. Covering an area the size of Ireland, this diocese has approximately 120,000 inhabitants, 85% of whom are Catholic. It is an extremely arid and unproductive region and the absence of infrastructure makes it difficult, if not, impossible, to get around quickly. As a result, for the 33 priests working in the dioceses, the help of the more than 100 religious Sisters and lay pastoral workers is of a priceless value.

Bishop Adolfo, the bishop of Añatuya, has written to ACN for support. His is one of the poorest dioceses in Argentina, where the average salary is just 300 pesos (around $75) a month – the Sisters and catechists do not earn much more than this. “They get less than $75 a month, and from this they must pay their board, lodging and transportation costs,” explains Bishop Adolfo. They also share in the same kind of living conditions as everyone else. “We have no electric power. When it rains, the roads are impassable and we cannot even transport medicines or food,” reads a letter from three Dominican Sisters, who run a parish some 60 km (38 miles) from Añatuya.

The priest can only visit once a month; the rest of the time, the Sisters are the ones available for the Catholic faithful. Those who do have work here consider themselves lucky – despite the meagre salary – for the unemployment rate in Añatuya is around 65%.

©Aid to the Church in Need

©Aid to the Church in Need

Many of the local people live in simple mud huts with roofs of branches and grass. The general lack of hygiene and good order leads to all kinds of ailments, including outbreaks of tuberculosis and gastro-intestinal disorders, as well as syphilis. Many children suffer from malnutrition, and there is a lack of doctors, therefore the people are all the more happy to have Sister Asunción, a trained nurse, present among them. This Dominican Sister works in a health centre and “does everything” as her fellow religious testify. “The patients come from miles away, since they have more confidence in her than in the doctors,” they tell us.

Water is a veritable blessing in Añatuya where it normally rains for only four months of the year and where the soil is full of saltpetre and contaminated with arsenic. The only water is supplied by a very salty river – appropriately named – Rio Salado (or “Salty River”). This river also poses a very real threat during the rainy season to all the surrounding villages, when the roads and entire villages are inundated. “We had 24 evacuees living in our convent for almost 3 weeks,” recalls Sister Loucia, the superior of her community of six “Jesús Verbo y Víctima”.  At the time, the Sisters were completely cut off from their surroundings and forced to suspend their pastoral work.  Nevertheless, they continued to visit everyone they could reach, and prayed with them – a help which was of “great consolation” for all the people concerned.


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.


Aid to the Church in Need wants to help support the life and apostolate of the 91 religious sisters in the diocese, with a total of $51,000.


Journey with ACN – Liberia

© 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:   Liberia

An archdiocese says “Thank you!”

 Thanks to your generous support, ACN has been able to help for the ongoing work of 27 Catholic schools in the archdiocese of Monrovia, with the purchase of a car. There are officially 140,705 Catholics in the archdiocese. In Liberia generally, Christians make up some 40% of the total population (Catholics 6%, Protestants 34%). Another 40% of the population are still adherents of traditional, animist religions, while Muslims account for a sizable minority of around 20%. The area of this region is very extensive (25,000 km sq); the roads are untarred, and a robust vehicle is essential for travel. Archbishop Lewis Zeigler wrote to tell us that the two vehicles then in use by the diocese already had around 70,000 km under their belts and, given the increasingly high cost of repairs, were coming to the end of their useful service. Needless to say, such vehicles are essential to the smooth running of the 27 Catholic schools in the archdiocese. “We need to visit each school at least five times in order to be able to supervise them effectively,” the archbishop told us.

© Aid to the Church in Need - Transportation Project

© Aid to the Church in Need – Transportation Project

The new car is used not only for the visits of the school inspectors, however, but also for transporting school meals, books and other teaching materials and equipment for the schools –  altogether serving some 15,500 pupils, for the most part from very poor families. Liberia is today only slowly recovering from the massive economic collapse that followed the 14 years of civil war, from 1989 to 2003. At the same time the population has now been hit by the frightening spread of the Ebola virus, which has already infected over 6,500 people in the country and claimed more than 2,500 lives to date. Father Sumo Varfee Molubah, who is responsible for school education within the archdiocese, wrote to us in November 2014 saying, „The ongoing crisis and the rapid spread of the Ebola virus has brought many of our activities to a standstill. We thank God that the vehicle has reached us nonetheless.” Because of the crisis, the teaching in the schools has been temporarily suspended. So the car is currently being kept in a secure place until the schools can be reopened again. Father Sumo writes: “We are most grateful for your support.”


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.

Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

Father Werenfried van Straaten – also known as ‘The Bacon Priest’ – January 17, 1913 – January 31, 2003 © Aid to the Church in Need

“Someone must begin: Let it be us!”

Good news often gets drowned out by the tide of shock-horror stories. And yet the seed of peace and reconciliation is burgeoning in many places around the world. Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), dedicated the whole of his life to the service of reconciliation. He died on 31 January twelve years ago.

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International – Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

It often begins with a gesture of help. Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need, followed the principle: “Someone must begin: Let it be us!” When Pope John Paul II asked him in 1991, after his long life as a bridge-builder, to now seek the means of creating a dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, he couldn’t wait to get going. After all, this Church had had to start practically from scratch after decades of persecution. The figures speak from themselves: of the approximately 60,000 houses of worship in which the Holy Liturgy had been celebrated prior to the October Revolution in Russia, only 100 were left twenty years later. In the first two years after the October Revolution alone 15,000 Orthodox priests had been killed. More than 300 bishops had been executed or had died in prison. When he was almost 80 years old, he said that to give support to the Orthodox sister Church after the collapse of the communist regime not only with fine words was the “last and greatest joy of my life.”

“Ecumenism is the work of the Holy Spirit”

The “ecumenism of the martyrs,” the common confession of faith by the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the labour camps and prisons of the Soviet Union, was now to become transformed after the political turnaround into an “ecumenism of solidarity.”.Help in training new priests, the “chapel boats” which acted as floating churches visiting villages which had no houses of worship on the shores of the rivers Volga and Don, joint media initiatives intended to break down prejudices and to inform the faithful about the respective other Church and support in pastoral care for prisoners and drug addicts have all borne rich fruit, as has the support given to the first Orthodox hospice for terminally ill children. Numerous friendships and initiatives have emerged from these actions. The help given was not only one-sided since in Russia, where Catholic Christians are only a small minority, open-minded Orthodox clerics can be valuable helpers for the Catholic communities. Successive Popes have expressed the wish that this commitment be continued. Often mutual mistrust is based on ignorance and prejudices, and so it is important to get to know one another better and thus be able to come closer together.

“Ecumenism is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not have hands or feet and so we Christians must become his hands and feet in the world.” With these words the young Protestant pastor Vladimir Tatarnikov from Belarus encapsulated what more and more Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians feel: that reconciliation is not just a theory, but something concrete. That it consists of words which are consciously spoken, of deeds which create facts, of steps which people take to come closer to one another. And that, in the final analysis, it is a gift of God.

In many countries there now exist successful ecumenical initiatives. For example, in Lutsk in the north-west of Ukraine an ecumenical benefit event is held every year. For this joint celebration, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants prepare a programme of Christmas carols, plays and dances.  The proceeds go to orphans. The programme is broadcast on state television. The fact that the Churches join together to help poor children also sets a good example to people who generally have nothing to do with the Christian faith.

“Not only a choice, but a duty” is how Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, describes the commitment to ecumenism. In many countries the collaboration between the different denominations and religions is, however, also a bitter necessity, since wherever hatred rules it can save lives if the representatives of the religious communities join together to advocate reconciliation and peace. In the spiral of violence into which the Central African Republic was drawn further and further in 2013/2014 it was the combined voices of Catholic, Protestant and Muslim religious leaders which could be heard opposing the law of vengeance and supporting reconciliation and reason. It is thanks to the joint intervention of representatives of the Churches and religions that it was possible to prevent massacres in many places; for example in Bozoum, a town in the north west of the country where the Italian Carmelite father Aurelio Gazzera joined with a Protestant pastor and an imam in January 2014 to conduct intensive peace negotiations and achieve the withdrawal of the Séléka rebels when it was feared there would be a massacre with hundreds of dead.

Always trusted in the power of God

 In view of the spreading persecution of Christians, collaboration is becoming more necessary than ever. Pope Francis said in December 2013 in an interview with the Italian newspaper “La Stampa” that, in view of the persecution of Christians, ecumenism was for him a “matter of priority” since in many countries Christians are being killed because they wear a crucifix or own a Bible. And before they are killed, they are not asked whether they are Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans or Orthodox believers. The blood is mixed.” It was the wish of Jesus that all should be one. Father Werenfried, the founder of Aid to the Church in Need, who died twelve years ago on 31 January, always trusted in the power of God which opens the hearts of people to one another. The desire to build bridges and bring about reconciliation was the great mission in his life. Taking the first step in this direction was the major feature of Aid to the Church in Need  from the very beginning.



Iraq  “Pope Francis is expected in Iraq”

The Papal Ambassador in Iraq hopes that the situation of the Christians in the country will improve in 2015

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

The Apostolic Nuncio for Iraq, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, expressed the hope that the Christians driven out of northern Iraq by the terrorist militia “Islamic State”(IS) would be able to return to their homes this year. The Nuncio said this to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on Tuesday in Bethlehem (Palestine), where he was attending a conference.

“But if they do return it won’t be easy,” the Nuncio explained. “Alongside the reconstruction of destroyed houses and infrastructure such as schools, it will be necessary first and foremost to restore the trust in Muslim neighbours which had also been shattered. Many Christians feel their neighbours betrayed them because they looted their houses. So it will not only be necessary to repair houses, but also relationships.”

A campaign of national reconciliation


Archbishop Lingua gave a positive assessment of the work done by the Iraqi central government. “My impression is that something has got moving and that the new government is working well. A fundamental factor is the greater involvement of all groups. It will never be possible to speak of an Iraq free of terrorism as long as not all ethnic and religious components are involved. If one group is excluded it must not be assumed that they will not rebel,” the Nuncio continued. The alienation of the Arab Sunni population from the Shiite-dominated central government is seen as one of the main reasons for the rise of the “Islamic State.”

What is crucial for the future of Christianity in Iraq, Lingua stressed, is how the crisis in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain would be handled, where the majority of Christian refugees lived and which is currently occupied by the IS. “If the government manages to regain control and implements a campaign of national reconciliation, then there will be a place for Christians in Iraq. If the clashes persist, however, the weakest will pay the price, and these are always the minorities. We therefore have to hope that peace will return. And this is where the international community comes in.”

Archbishop Lingua stressed the problem of basic humanitarian difficulties experienced by the refugees, such as inadequate medical care, are further aggravated by the cold winter. “At the present time the people mainly need heaters. There are reports that some of the children have perished in the cold.” On top of this there are growing psychological strains. “The people don’t know how long they still have to hold out as refugees,” Lingua said. “This hopeless situation is causing those people to consider emigration who don’t actually want to leave.”

About 7,000 Christians had already fled to Jordan, where many were awaiting to leave for western countries. Overall the Nuncio assumes that about ten per cent of the 120,000 Christians who fled in August have left Iraq.


© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

A visit from Pope Francis?

The Nuncio also stressed that Pope Francis was deeply concerned by Iraq and the situation of the Christians there. The Holy Father demonstrated his concern on various occasions, according to Lingua. When asked about the possibility of a Papal visit to Iraq he said: “The Holy Father is expected in Iraq both by the Church and the political powers, and even by non-Christians such as the Shiite leadership. I am impressed how great the consensus is concerning the figure of the Pope.”

With a view to security concerns surrounding a visit by the Pope to Iraq, Lingua said: “I’m no expert in such matters. But everybody says that they would do everything to make the visit a success.” Archbishop Lingua continued that a possible visit would have to last longer than one day. “You can’t come to Iraq and not go to Ur, which Sunnis, Shiites and Christians all revere as the birthplace of Abraham. You cannot not go to Baghdad because it is the seat of government – and you cannot not go to Erbil, where the majority of Christian refugees live. I would therefore prefer a visit to be fixed for a later date and for it to be more extensive, rather than for it to be organized quickly, missing out on some opportunities.”



Journey with ACN

© 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 :   Peru  & Honduras


“It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church”

Renovation of the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, San José de Amazonas

There are no other countries in South America where the shortage of priests is more acute than in Bolivia and Peru. Even though some 84% of Peru’s population of around 28 million inhabitants have been baptized Catholic, there remains a tremendous lack of the most basic knowledge of the Catholic Faith and an acute shortage of necessary pastoral care, resulting in the flourishing of sects. Today approximately 10% of Peruvians belong to one of the many evangelical “free churches” – and this trend is increasing rapidly.

Even in the most remote regions, the sects are advancing – including here, in the vicariate of San José de Amazonas which is found in the extreme north-east of the country, bordering Colombia. This is an exceptionally remote region most easily reached by aircraft, or by boat along the upper reaches of the Amazon River. And quite apart from the growth of the sects, the sheer remoteness, inaccessibility and scattered nature of the settlements is another of the greatest challenges for priests and missionaries here.

In many of the smaller towns and villages the sects have already built small chapels and in this way they are luring to them many Catholics. There are, perhaps, 800 small Catholic settlements altogether along the rivers Amazon, Napo, Putumayo and Yavari and their countless tributaries – all in an area of around 60,000 square miles (155,000 km²). One of these centres is the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, which has existed since 1956. Due to the shortage of priests, most of these small communities are looked after by religious Sisters or lay missionaries, who conduct liturgies of the Word and prepare the faithful for reception of the Sacraments.

The poverty is almost unimaginable by Western standards. Most Catholic faithful are simple campesinos who barely manage to scrape a meagre living from the land. Socially, and culturally, they have few prospects. This is one reason, perhaps, why the Church plays such an important role in their lives. Most of the villages’ inhabitants and of the homesteads and settlements in the surrounding area come to the churches to worship. And the parish church itself is both House of God and a communications centre at the same time – a place of shared prayer, but also a social and cultural meeting place. This is very much the case in Pevas. But time has not been kind to their parish church.

Bishop Miguel Olaortua Laspra has visited the community personally and seen for himself the state of the church, which was built in 1968. The rain and heat have caused the roof to rust through by now and the water drips through onto the altar missals. It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church, since at any moment pieces of the ceiling can break and fall. Therefore, the Bishop would like the church to have a new roof. “Unfortunately, the vicariate is not in a position to cover the costs of the repairs itself,” he writes. “We are therefore appealing to your generosity and would be most grateful if you can help us.”

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.


The parishioners themselves are willing to play an active part in renovating the church. But their efforts alone will not be enough. And so we were happy to promised them a contribution of $12,000 dollars.



Providing religious Sisters with the basics of life

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

She is young, and she works full-time – and yet she still does not have enough to live on. Ruth Nohemi Martinez is 29 years old, and since December 2010, she has been a religious Sister in the community of Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Francisco, in the Department of Atlántida.

Sister Ruth is one of 23 religious Sisters working in the dioceses of La Ceiba on the northern Caribbean coast of the country. Most of these nuns are active in the pastoral and catechetical field. They look after children, young people and adults providing religious instruction in the kindergartens and schools, preparing children for their First Holy Communion and young couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony. In many of these parishes the parish priests simply could not cope without the help of these parish Sisters of “theirs.” At the same time, many of the Sisters are also active in charitable and social fields. In their work with young people they run day-cares, help the children with their homework, provide lunchtime meals service for the poorest children, care for young people in the country areas and provide psychological and pedagogical counselling… Other Sisters work in retirement homes and hospitals and in the apostolate with mothers and women.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

The scope of their work is enormous – but there is one thing that all these sisters have in common, and that is the fact that the little money earned by just some of the Sisters for their work is not sufficient to support their communities. Without the help of generous donations from outside this precious and richly blessed ministry of theirs would be impossible. Bishop Michael Lenihan of La Ceiba writes to say: “We thank you with all our hearts for your precious support, which is helping us spread the Good News in our diocese.”

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.


ACN has always given to the work of these Sisters and will continue to do so this year as well – with a contribution of $13,800 dollars, to ensure apostolates among those of the Consecrated Life, like Sister Ruth, can continue.