Thursday, January 29, 2015

ACN News - Jesuit laments car bomb in Homs, Syria – ‘Young people were deliberately targeted’



By Oliver Maksan


“Most of them were students at the university, young people who had not left the city. So what sort of message does this attack send out now?  I believe they were deliberately targeted.”

These were the words of Syrian Jesuit Father Hilal Ziad, commenting on the Jan. 21 midday car bomb explosion that killed 15 and wounded 50 others in the center of the ancient town of Homs. The killing was indiscriminate, and there were Christians among both the dead and the wounded.

The priest told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, “The attack was staged very close to our church and our aid center. We do not know who was behind it, but it is a tragedy.”

“The pictures of the attack are horrifying. We are visiting the families of the victims and trying to comfort them. But what can anyone say in such a situation?”

“We are all deeply saddened and devastated.”

Newly under Syrian government control, Homs, the third-largest city in Syria, was for several years the site of a bloody stand-off between the regime and rebel forces of various stripes, both secular and Islamist.

Father Ziad is among a group of clergy caring for Christians who remained stranded in the town’s center. In April of 2014, a fellow Jesuit, Dutch Father Frans van der Lugt was assassinated by an unknown gunman.

In the past year alone, 80,000 Christians were forced to leave their homes. Thanks to the aid centers run by Father Ziad and his fellow clergy, food, clothing and items of basic hygiene have been distributed to thousands of victims, regardless of their religion or political outlook.

Father Ziad expressed dismay at the lack of any reaction on the part of the world media, “Where is the reaction from the rest of the world? After the attacks in Paris all eyes were on France. But here?”

“As far as I am aware, there has not been any reaction by anybody. Not a word. Only silence. Syria and the daily sufferings of its people are forgotten.”

In October 2014, a double bomb blast killed 50 people.

It is estimated that some 200,000 people have died since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, among them many thousands of Christians.

           
With picture of Homs in ruins (© ACN)



Editor’s Notes:


Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Saturday, January 24, 2015

An Examination of Conscience that really hits home



I found a copied booklet of an old Examination of Conscience in the things I save for later use.  If anyone can identify the author, please let me know.  The help given to examine one's conscience with regards to loving our neighbor is invaluable, as you can see:

- Have I been unkind towards others?

- Have I hurt others by my flare-ups of anger or impatience?

- Have I made cutting, sarcastic remarks to others?

- Have I permitted uncharitable talk to go on in my presence without an effort to change the subject?

- Have I insisted upon my own opinion, to the offense of others?

- Was I bent on "getting even" and taking petty revenge?

- Have I been inclined to throw the blame on others?

- Have I told my friends the unkind remarks others made about the, thus fomenting ill-will?

- Have I allowed myself to give in to uncharitable thoughts and suggestions?

- Have I attributed bad motives to others when I could not be certain of their intentions?

- Have I harbored suspicions of others for a long time?

- Have I nursed resentment against others, even though I did make an effort at forgiveness?

- Have I allowed my sensitive towards to others around me?

- Have I failed to try to make others happy and comfortable by giving in to morose, gloomy, selfish moods?

- Have I contributed to the venial sins of others by unreasonably teasing or annoying them?

- Have I lessened the fear of sin in others by thoughtlessly making light of some sin?

- Have I always shielded the good name of others?

- Have I led others into venial sin by suggestion or bad example?

- Because I did not like others, did I refuse to cooperate with them in work we were given to do?

Sufficient matter for mortal sin:

- Have I persistently refused in my heart to forgive a person who has injured me?

- Have I, over a considerable period of time, refused to talk to or acknowledge someone who has wronged me?

- Do I live in enmity and hatred of someone?

- Have I grievously slandered others, i.e., attributed serious sins to them which they did not commit, or of which I had no evidence?

Meekness:

- Have I taken part in petty quarrels and bitter arguments?

- Have I given in to sudden spurts of anger by harsh words, by calling names, by abusive language?

- Have I shown dislike or antipathy for others by snubbing them, by being sarcastic toward them, or by unkindness?

- Have I given in to moods of sullenness and moroseness towards others?

- Have I shown sensitiveness and hurt feelings over trifling matters?

- Have I talked back peevishly when justly corrected?

- Have I teased others until I made them angry?

- Have I, through jealousy of others, deliberately tried to destroy a good work that they were doing or to hamper it seriously?

Humility:

- Have I been guilty of the form of pride called vanity, by considering myself more intelligent, more learned, more handsome, even more charitable than others?  Have I thought highly of my own "humility"?

- Have I bragged about my accomplishments, my virtues, my abilities?

- Have I given in to anger against others because I thought myself better than they and that they should show better than to cross me?

- Have I shown my pride in the form of sensitiveness, resentment, pouting, peevishness?  Have I been envious of others?

- Have I shown my pride in constant disobedience in small things or by stubbornness and disrespectful language to those who had a right to my obedience?




Thursday, January 22, 2015

ACN News - Citing turning tide for country’s Christians, papal envoy says ‘Pope Francis is expected in Iraq’



By Oliver Maksan


The Vatican’s diplomatic representative in Iraq, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, is cautiously optimistic that the Christians driven out of northern Iraq by the Islamic State might be able to return to their homes sometime this year.

He told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), however, that the process will very challenging, even aside from the formidable military effort that will be required which most observers consider to be unlikely to happen anytime soon.

 “If they do return it won't be easy," the nuncio explained. "Besides the reconstruction of destroyed houses and infrastructure, such as schools, it will be necessary first and foremost to restore the trust in Muslim neighbors which has also been shattered.

“Many Christians feel their neighbors betrayed them, because they looted their [abandoned] houses. So it will not only be necessary to repair homes, but also relationships."

Archbishop Lingua gave a positive assessment of the work done by the Iraqi central government: “Something has been put in motion; the new government is working well.”

“A fundamental factor is the greater involvement of all groups. The country will never be free of terrorism as long as some ethnic and religious components are barred from the governing process.”

“If a group is excluded it must not be assumed that they will not rebel.”

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 Islamic State.

What is crucial for the future of Christianity in Iraq, Lingua stressed, is how the crisis in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain will be handled. That is the territory where the majority of Christians have lived for many centuries and which is currently occupied by Islamic State.

"If the government manages to regain control there and implements a campaign of national reconciliation, then there will be a place for Christians in Iraq.”

“If clashes persist, however,” he added, “the weakest will pay the price, and these are always the minorities.”

“We therefore have to hope that peace will return. This is where the international community comes in."

Archbishop Lingua stressed that the basic humanitarian difficulties experienced by the refugees, such as the inadequate medical care, are currently aggravated further 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 some people to consider emigration while they don't actually want to leave."

About 7000 Christians have already fled to Jordan, where many are awaiting to leave for Western countries. The nuncio reported that about ten percent of the 120,000 Christians who fled their homes in August have left Iraq.

The Nuncio also stressed that Pope Francis was deeply concerned by Iraq and the situation of the Christians there. 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."

As regards 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 said 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 can't not go to Baghdad, because that's the seat of government. And you can't 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, with the risk of missing out on some opportunities."

                                                                                                
With picture of Archbishop Giorgio Lingua (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:



Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

ACN News - Nigerian prelate calls for Western military intervention to defeat Boko Haram



By John Pontifex


A Bishop whose diocese in north-east Nigeria has suffered most at the hands of Boko Haram wants the West to send in military forces to defeat the militants.

Describing how a strategically superior Boko Haram was now recruiting from countries across North Africa, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri said that Western military intervention was the only viable option in the fight against the militants, now allied to Islamic State.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, the bishop said Nigeria’s military was weakened by incompetence, corruption and Boko Haram infiltration within its ranks.

He warned that drastic action was urgently needed as the attacks earlier this month in strategically significant Baga showed that Boko Haram was poised to become a threat well beyond Nigeria’s borders and was recruiting from Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Libya.

Bishop Dashe Doeme, whose diocese is the heartland of the Islamist terror group, said, “The West should bring in security – land forces to contain and beat back Boko Haram.”

“A concerted military campaign is needed by the West to crush Boko Haram.”

He said the situation had become so critical – with more devastating Boko Haram attacks last week south of Maiduguri – it demanded a repeat of the French campaign of early 2013 to force Islamists out of parts of Mali, also in west Africa.

The bishop said the attack in Baga revealed the ineptitude of the Nigerian military, adding that incompetent senior officers should be sacked “as a lesson to the others.”

“Among the soldiers, there were sympathizers with Boko Haram – some of them were even Boko Haram members and many of them just ran away.”

The bishop also called for the arrest of clandestine foreign backers of the Islamist terror group, adding: “The [Nigerian] government knows who are sponsoring Boko Haram.”

The bishop described how within five years the Boko Haram threat has decimated his diocese with more than 50 churches and chapels destroyed and more than 200 churches abandoned.

He said that 1,000 of his faithful have been killed, many of them by Islamists.

Bishop Dashe Doeme said, “The [extremists] point a gun or a knife at them saying that if they do not convert they will be killed. Some of them have been killed for refusing to convert.”

Describing how since 2009, nearly 70,000 of the 125,000 Catholics in Maiduguri had fled their homes, he appealed for help for faithful taking refuge in displacement camps.

He thanked ACN providing $52,100 in emergency aid for displaced people from his diocese.

The charity has also given $42,900 as Mass stipends for the priests of Maiduguri diocese, half of whom have taken refuge in neighboring Yola diocese in eastern Nigeria.

He said: “The threat we face presents a very bleak future for the Church. Many of our members are scattered and others have been killed. In some areas there are no Christians anymore.”

“But the Church belongs to Christ. The Church will remain strong and many of our people have returned after land has been taken back by the Nigerian soldiers.”

He called for prayer to overcome the Boko Haram threat, asking for people to pray the Hail Mary.

“The most important thing is to pray for our people; I know people are praying for us and I am very grateful.”

“I want people to pray the Hail Mary–our mother Mary has been championing our cause. We have a lot of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.”


With picture of Bishop Doeme greeting his people (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:




Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.


For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Monday, January 19, 2015

When a Good Man Dies Alone

My friend picking a sugar cane for my enjoyment


I found out about my friend's death the other day.  I had been looking to seeing him to tell him that a plant growing in his garden was none other than jicama.  I didn't get a chance.  He died before the New Year.

His death hit a lot of us who knew him, very hard.  Those of us who were blessed to have him befriend us, and that was almost everyone in our little community garden, felt a special connection to him; like he really cared about us individually.

Then came the news that he had died alone.  It was a couple of days before someone found him.  That news just about broke my heart.  The last time I saw him was before Christmas.  Again, I was looking forward to seeing him again.  I had so much to share with him.

He was the kind of man who was very generous not only with his things, the vegetables he grew in his little plot, his knowledge but also with his time.  He went out of his way to reach out to the new gardeners.  He made us feel welcomed and happy.  In return, he liked to have a ear to listen to him.

I have some regrets.  I wish I had thought to give him a Brown Scapular.  I wish I had listened to him more.  I wish I could have been as generous with the stuff I grew as he was with me.  I wish I had reached out to him more, regardless of the fact he was a very private man.  I wish I had thought to ask him if he wanted the anointing of the sick.

The fact that he died alone was haunting me until I remembered through God's grace, that he did not die alone. He had St. Joseph there, the blessed Mother, Jesus, his own guardian angel and who knows who else was there when human family and friends could not be there.

I miss you deeply my friend. You were a true gentleman and a noble soul.   I hope you are now in heaven or will soon be.  The masses I will request for you will make sure of that.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord,
May Your Perpetual Light shine upon him,
May he rest in peace.


Friday, January 16, 2015

ACN News - Suffering in Sierra Leone, hard-hit by Ebola, reminds bishop of civil war years



By Reinhard Backes


From providing spiritual support to ensuring preventive care, the Catholic Diocese of Kenema in the eastern part of Sierra Leone is deeply involved in the country’s fight against the Ebola virus—a vital struggle that continues, even as the epidemic has largely dropped from the headlines in the US.

Bishop Patrick Daniel Koroma told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about a full range of initiatives the local Church has undertaken: “The Diocese of Kenema works through its networks of parishes, small Christian communities, hospitals, clinics, schools, religious communities to reach out to many people in these key areas: sensitization, safe burial or appropriate burial techniques, psycho-social support, education and training, help the discharged, social mobilization, message of hope.”

The work of the Church—in Kenema and in other dioceses throughout Liberia—largely depends on the support from donors in the West. The money is being used to finance medical emergency and basic aid programs; food aid; the training and mobilization of employees; and for pastoral work with patients, family members and aid workers. The same is true in neighboring Liberia.

Bishop Koroma stressed that the Church’s efforts hold considerable risks for clergy and laity: “The virus has taken away many of our experienced health care workers, which is sad. Some of these nurses and lab technicians are parishioners.”

“We continue to hold in esteem and pray for frontline workers who are risking their lives to prevent the spread of the virus.”

The epidemic has put a great strain on the Catholic community. “The urge to respond to acute humanitarian needs has led the Church to utilize what little resources are available. To pay staff is a big problem,” the prelate said.

The bishop spoke of initial indications that it may be possible to push back the Ebola virus, but he remains gravely concerned about the future, as the task ahead is immense.

The impact of the epidemic recalls the suffering inflicted by the country’s lengthy civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002. 

The bishop said: “Market days have been put on hold; schools were closed in the country before the end of the school year and their doors remain locked; the number of orphans is increasing by the day.”

Topping the country’s agenda—and that of the Church—the bishop said are: “economic revitalization, education, agriculture, healing the wounded memories, care of orphans.”

Your support at work
Aid to the Church in Need has provided $120,000 to help the Church in Sierra Leone fight Ebola; $60,000 has gone to help initiatives in Liberia, particularly in the Archdiocese of Monrovia, the country’s capital.

 








With picture of Liberian mother and children (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:



Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.


For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ACN News - In Kurdish Iraq, new beginnings for exiled Sisters and priests



By Oliver Maksan


In 2014, more than 120,000 Christians, among them dozens of priests and religious, had to flee from ISIS in Iraq. Many have found refuge in the autonomous Kurdish regions of Iraq after having lost everything – just like Sister Sanaa.

The nun is mother superior of a community of Sacred Heart Sisters. “ISIS blew up our convent in Mosul on November 24. They first tried to blow up the four crosses on the roof. Then they destroyed the entire building. We don’t know why exactly,” she reported.

“This made us very sad. It was a critical moment for our community. After all, it had been our spiritual home for many years. I joined our community there in 1985. We had an active pastoral care program in Mosul. Among other things, we maintained a home for old people there.”

However, the Sisters’ suffering began months before the explosion that destroyed the convent. At the time, Sister Sanaa was not in the city. Returning from a journey, she wanted to get back to her fellow Sisters at all costs. However, all access routes had been blocked since early June.

“Days before the city completely fell into the hands of ISIS, fierce battles raged between the army and the jihadists. Our convent lay right in between. There was constant heavy fire.”

“The Sisters were very scared and thus left the convent and went to another house in Mosul. They were able to flee just before ISIS took over the city. It was truly at the very last minute,” she reported.

“Our Sisters were just able to consume the Blessed Sacrament before they fled. They did not want it to fall into the hands of the jihadists. However, they unfortunately had to leave the tabernacle itself behind. There wasn’t enough room in the car.”

The community of nuns then fled to Tilkef, a partially Christian city near Mosul. The Sisters ran a printing company for liturgical books there. However, they soon had to flee once more. ISIS had also conquered Tilkef.

Sister Sanaa nevertheless plucked up the courage three more times after the fall of Mosul to return to the city now in the hands of the holy warriors of Islam. “We had been forced to leave our entire archive behind. As mother superior of the convent, I considered it my duty to save it. After all, it contains important documents representing one hundred years of our community’s memory.”

Volunteers joined her on this extremely dangerous journey. “I did not want to make anyone go with me. It was very dangerous, after all. Other nuns have been kidnapped by ISIS.”

She managed to pass through checkpoints guarded by bearded ISIS fighters, who were flanked by the black flag of the caliphate, three times. The archive was saved.

Today, the Sister lives in Ankawa, a Christian suburb of the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil. Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has provided financial support to the twenty nuns concerned so that they can make a fresh start.

In addition, a temporary school is being set up for the children of Christian refugees. The Sisters will teach there, thus earning a salary from the state. This will help them secure their future.

A machine for the production of altar breads, also acquired with the help of ACN, contributes further to their livelihood. The Sisters also sew cassocks and liturgical vestments. These supply members of the clergy who have had to leave everything behind as they fled from ISIS, such as Father Janan.

The Syrian-Catholic monk currently lives with his fellow brothers in a settlement near Erbil. The church has rented numerous apartments there with the help of ACN.

“We fled from Bakhdida on August 6. We even left our identity cards behind because everything had to go so quickly. We thought that the Kurdish fighters would protect us. However, when they suddenly pulled out, we dropped everything and fled.” Liturgical instruments, books and robes: they were not able to take anything with them.

“Our fellow monks have given us liturgical vestments and books so that we can celebrate the liturgy. We are trying to continue our monastic life here as best as we can,” he said and showed the temporary chapel that they have set up on the ground floor of the terraced house.

“The Liturgy of the Hours morning, noon and night provides structure to our day. And of course we celebrate Holy Mass.”

Mass is held in a tent that serves as a church for the refugees. Plastic chairs are set up under a white canvas. Dozens of women have gathered to pray the rosary. The only adornments are an icon of the Redeemer and the Mother of God.

“We celebrate Holy Mass here. We have also baptized children here already. It is important that this refugee settlement has a spiritual heart. We may have lost our homes, but God is with us everywhere.”


With picture of Sister Sanaa Hana and some of her charges (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:



Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.


For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Friday, January 09, 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

ACN News - Among Christian refugees in Kurdistan, "Nobody's angry at God"



By Oliver Maksan


"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Suheila, an old Christian woman from Mosul was effusively expressing her gratitude as she met a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). "May God make things easy for you in your lives."

The elderly lady lives in the Sports Club Center in Ankawa, where more than 200 Christian families from Qaraqosh have sought refuge. It was ACN who procured the mobile homes there.

"This is really a big improvement. I'm grateful for it. But in general, of course, this is no life. We've lost everything. The worst thing is that we don't know when or whether we will be able to return to our homeland."

The old lady has been fleeing since June. She ran for her life twice with thousands of others. When the Islamic terrorist militia ISIS overran Mosul in early June, thousands of Christian fled.

"First we went to Qaraqosh. But when ISIS advanced there in August, we had to flee again. Now we have been here in Ankawa for four months. But none of us is angry at God. Fortunately we are all still alive."

There are the unforgettable pictures from August, when tens of thousands of Christians fleeing ISIS flooded the towns of Kurdistan. They had a panic-stricken flight into the August heat behind them.

Given the lack of suitable accommodations, they often slept on the bare ground under the open sky, even in Ankawa, the Christian district of Erbil. The people lay on the pavements and under bushes.

A lot has happened since then. "I can see major progress since my last visit in August," said Johannes Heereman, the President of Aid to the Church in Need. In the middle of December he visited Iraqi Kurdistan, where the majority of the roughly 120,000 Christians have found refuge.

"It's a great leap forward. The people are much better housed now. Many have found work and can therefore help support themselves. This is important because the assistance only secures a subsistence minimum.”

“Even so the situation makes you despair of course because there are no prospects. There's still no way of knowing when the places occupied by ISIS will be liberated."

In the meantime the local Church has not been idle. "When the people arrived here they were totally traumatized," Father Daniel reported. The young priest works in the Chaldean Mar Elia refugee camp in Ankawa. More than 800 Christians are living in 62 tents.

"It wasn't easy for the people to cope with the fact that they suddenly had nothing and had to live in tents. After all, previously they had been used to having their own houses. And they also mistrusted one another.”

“The children in particular were suffering under the situation. They saw their mothers crying and their fathers yelling.”

“Then we began to structure the everyday routine to give the children something different to think about." Games as well as dancing and singing competitions put a little joy back into their lives.

"Today," Father Daniel said, “the children are a lot calmer. And the adults, who were completely apathetic at the beginning, are now also trying to get a grip on their lives again. Many have jobs in restaurants or on building sites in Erbil.”

In fact, the camp gives a good impression. There's no garbage lying around. The laundry is hanging tidily on washing lines strung between the tents.

Even so, Father Daniel knows full well things can't go on like this indefinitely.

"Sure, we can improve the camp facilities by installing electricity and washrooms. That's important and necessary. But the crucial thing is that the people be able to think beyond the present day again."

Father Douglas Bazi, who manages the Mar Elia Camp, agrees. "The people won't go along with it forever. Many want to leave Iraq. The desired destinations are Australia, America or Europe. They've lost all faith in a future here in Iraq.”

“We can't force the people to stay, and neither do we want to. Others in turn want to stay. Some of them want to return to their houses on the Niniveh Plain after it has been liberated. Others want to set up a new life here in Kurdistan.”

“But it's really important that we don't lose the next generation. The crucial thing is therefore to enable the children to go to school again."

It was therefore a big leap forward when, in the middle of December in Ankawa, the first school for Christian refugee children was opened. Seven other schools spread throughout Iraqi Kurdistan will follow. They have been funded by ACN.

More than 7000 children will thus be able to attend school regularly again as from January 2015.

Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, Chaldean spiritual leader of Erbil is grateful. "This is an important contribution towards giving our refugees new perspectives. We want to thank all benefactors for their generosity."


With picture of life in the camp in Erbil (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:



Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

The Sacrament of Confession

Picture source


First, I hope God blesses abundantly all the priests who hear confessions day in and day out. Even though it is their duty, they bring so much peace into the heart of the penitent and for this we are eternally grateful.

The Confessional is a place where people let God’s love win.  The Confessional is the most joyful, humbling, and inspiring place in the world. - Father Mike Schmitz

Please read the following article by Father Mike Schmitz. It is a powerful statement for the sacrament of reconciliation. Inside the Confessional: What it is like for a Priest .  I would also ask that you take the time to pray the following prayer from the heart.  Surprisingly, it was written by Saint John Neumann, whose feast day we celebrated the other day.

"My Lord, Jesus, behold me defiled by sin.  Again I have stained the holy garment of grace in my soul that Your blood has cleansed so often.  O , Father of mercy, hear my prayer.  Give me a true spirit of penance that through the humble supplication of a contrite heart I may again receive pardon.
Since my last confession I have fallen more frequently than usual.  My Jesus, I have gone back.  But do not forsake me, though I richly deserve to be rejected as obstinate and incorrigible.  Behold me prostrate before You, O my God.  My sinfulness weighs me down.  Alas, Jesus my God and Savior, I dare not raise my eyes to You.  How can I who have so often violated my past resolves presume to ask pardon again?

O my soul, crushed by the load of sin, take courage; your Redeemer will console you in your desolation.  Reject me not, though I have miserably broken my promises of amendment.  Cast not off your wretched child or I shall be forever lost.  From my heart I grieve for having offended You.  O holy Mother of God, my guardian angel, my holy patrons, intercede for me with my judge and obtain for me the pardon of my sins.  O Jesus, grant me a true spirit of penance.  My Jesus, have mercy on me.

From the January 5, 2015 Magnificat