Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ACN News - South Sudan – ‘The worst is still to come’



By Clare Creegan


A project partner of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has warned that the upsurge of fighting in South Sudan will mean a worsening of the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of civilians.

One of the Catholic charity’s South Sudanese project partners, who cannot be named for security reasons, described how renewed violence in Juba has caused immense suffering and increased insecurity amongst its people.

Referring to calls from the governments of neighboring countries Uganda and Kenya for their citizens to leave South Sudan, he said, “The way the various governments all over the world are panicking and acting shows that they fear that something terrible is still to happen.”

“One can even hear that ‘the worst is still to come!’”

The religious Brother also described how the South Sudanese people were prohibited from leaving the country and were suffering from food shortages – but thanked ACN for their solidarity.

He said, “Let’s pray that the nightmare in Juba and all around the country is soon coming to an end.”

“People just cannot stand this hell any longer. I am seeing people leaving Juba in big numbers, mostly to Uganda, whenever they find a possibility and when they can afford it.”

Through the Church, 1,385 registered families – which numbered 7,183 displaced people – were able to receive support at St. Paul’s Seminary campus in Juba.

The renewed fighting is a major setback for South Sudan’s peace process which had been troubled by ceasefire violations and localized outbreaks of violence since the peace agreement signed by rival leaders President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar in August 2015.

Tensions came to a head on July 7, following an attack in Juba close to where the President and Vice President were meeting.

Continued fighting is reported to have left more than 300 dead and the death toll is expected to rise as fears of a return to civil war increase.

Aid to the Church in Need is supporting ongoing projects in South Sudan including aid to help build a presbytery for the newly established parish in Barsherki in the Diocese of Wau.

In 2015, the charity also gave more than $950,000 to fund the Church’s pastoral work with refugees in South Sudan.


With picture of people waiting for transportation to escape the violence (© 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, July 23, 2016

Our Lady's Bird is Our Lady Bug



Picture source

Nice way to honor Our Lady on her day.

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.


          What insect has such a colorful and fascinating history as the ladybird, also known more popularly as the ladybug?  In an age of faith when people saw earth mirroring heaven, this tiny creature was thought to enjoy the special protection of the Virgin Mary.  Reversing its role in the last two centuries, this small symbol of Our Lady burst into prominence as a protector of people and their food supply.  As the enemy of aphids, the ladybird has rendered service calculated in the billions of dollars in the past century alone.  We have good reason to be grateful for this little beetle and to the Lady for whom it is named.

A problem of infestation


          Agricultural specialists first became interested in the ladybug when California orange groves were mercilessly attacked by a voracious insect pest in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Already in 1880 agricultural experts discovered that a parasitic insect was infesting some orange trees in California’s Santa Clara Valley.  The infestation was known locally as “San Jose scale.”  Eventually it was traced to the flowering peach trees imported from China.  These trees were infected with tiny sap-sucking insects until then unknown in the western world. 

          The deadly visitor insect from Asia found the orange trees a delicious victim and spread quickly.  They multiplied so rapidly that they became a mortal threat to the citrus industry in all of California.  By 1893 horticulturalists were occasionally finding specimens along the Atlantic seaboard.  Five years later the havoc wreaked by these aphids was so grave that the German emperor forbade the importation of American fruits and living plants.

 

Finding an antidote


          In the meantime, the Department of Agriculture had its specialists launch a counterattack.  They tried a variety of pesticides, but with little success.  Orange trees were dying by the hundreds of thousands.

          Mr. C. V. Riley, chief entomologist of the Department of Agriculture, suggested that aphids could be controlled by introducing other insects which would prey on them.  In 1890 such a proposal seemed radical and preposterous, and drew scoffs even from close associates.

          But that did not daunt C. V. Riley.  Working against indifference and opposition, he was determined to find a creature to attack the aphids devastating the citrus trees of the nation.  He learned that aphids caused little harm in Australia, and concluded that some natural enemy was keeping them under control. 

          Mr. Albert Koebele was dispatched to discover that foe of plant lice.   He concluded that a variety of the harmless ladybug beetle was the antidote.  Gathering ladybugs from Australian plants by hand, Koebele shipped 140 of these plant-saving beetles to an associate in Los Angeles.  When set free in an infested orange grove on trees covered with gauze screens, the ladybug liberators cleared these trees of scale within a few days.

          More ladybugs were imported, and California scientists began to raise them in wholesale quantities.  In California citrus groves they brought cottony-cushion scale under control within two years.

          Following this success, this variety of beetle was introduced to more than thirty countries.  Without exception they reduced or eliminated that damage of scale insects which infest citrus trees.

          So dramatic and conclusive was the ladybird experiment that it marked a turning point in scientific agriculture.  From that time hundreds of experiments have been made to find insects which would control insect pests and noxious plants.  Economic entomology, now a major operation in several countries, is an outgrowth of the ladybird experiment to salvage California’s orange-growing business.

Significance of the name


          The ladybird, or ladybug, rose to the rescue as the protector of the human food supply.  Although this was a new role for the colorful beetle, the bright insect had been well known for centuries.

          How did it become known as “Our Lady’s Bird?”  No one seems to know exactly.  In Elizabethan times many common creatures were attributed names with a sacred association.  Such names were usually local in character.  In the case of the ladybird, another factor came into play.  Not only was it a colloquial name employed in a few areas of England, but it found its way into many languages in forms closely related.

          In German the tiny critter was called Marienhuhn (Mary’s chicken), Marienkafer (Mary’s beetle), and Marienwurmschen (Mary’s little worm).  Marienkuh was an earlier form related to the English “lady-cow.”  The Swedes used the name Marias Nyckelpiga, and the farmers still call the insect “the Virgin Mary’s golden hen.”  A slightly different tack is taken in French and in Spanish.  In these languages the names link the insect with the protection of God.  The French call it la bête a bon dieu (God’s animal), while the Spanish use the name Vaquilla de Dios (God’s little cow).

          Both coincidence and cultural exchange fall short in explaining so widespread a view concerning an insect.  Scientific names in Latin are common to many nations and languages.  But it is extraordinary for folk names to be so closely parallel.  Why should people in so many different lands envision the ladybug as enjoying heavenly protection, especially that of Mary?

          Here is the most reasonable guess.  Persons who have grown up in rural areas know that birds and animals almost always leave the ladybird strictly alone, for the ladybird is proficient in chemical warfare.  It produces a yellowish fluid which it discharges in time of danger.  Though seldom noticed by the blunted human sense of smell, this serum is highly repulsive to foes of the ladybird.  Consequently the bright bug goes about its business with virtual immunity from attack.

          Amazed at the beetle’s sheltered and protected life, the human observers probably concluded that it enjoyed the special favor of the Lady whom they themselves venerated and whose assistance they sought.  It seemed natural to call the insect Ladybird.  One might also conjecture that people saw a similarity in the creature’s charmed life to the preservation of Our Lady from sin.  In the England of that time the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was a popular belief and prominently discussed.  English dialects included variant titles like Lady-beetle, Lady-clock, and Lady-cow.  Standardization of speech erased these names, and gradually the capitalization of the first letter was discontinued.  Now only the scholarly reader continues to find in this insect’s name a reference to earlier reverence and Marian relation.

          Farmers of Elizabethan England may not have understood clearly the economic significance of the ladybird, but they knew that it fed on other insects.  Hops, long a major crop, are vulnerable to the attack of plant lice.  Ladybirds abound in hop fields.  They were probably observed in action more closely than the lack of written descriptions would indicate.  Not until 1861 did scientific records mention that ladybirds feed on the aphids which infest hops.

          Folk literature preserves some clues.  One is the fact that even today the children of many lands know some form of this rhyme.
                  
                  

Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home!
                   Your house is on fire,
                   Your children do roam.
                   Except little Ann, who sits in a pan
                   Weaving gold laces as fast as she can.

Children recite that rhyme after a ladybird has been placed on an outstretched finger.  This practice has changed little through the centuries as indicated by a woodcut which dates from the reign of King George II.  The woodcut depicts a child addressing a ladybird before flight.

          Having more rhyme than reason, the jingle’s significance is clearer in view of its historical setting.  Farmers often gathered hop plants and burned them when the harvest was finished.  Ladybirds swarmed and children enjoyed warning the little birds to flee from danger.  “Little Ann” was the name for a young grub of the ladybird attached to a leaf and shedding its skin, or “weaving gold laces.”

An important function


          When scientists determined that the ladybird is a natural foe of many plant parasites, they began raising them in special insectaries, especially along the Pacific Coast of the United States, since this region experienced the most devastating attacks by aphids and scales.

          Experts opine that the ladybird will never become obsolete and outlive its usefulness for agriculture.  The life-saver beetle is more efficient for many operations that any pesticide yet devised.  Those reared under natural conditions are more abundant and important than those produced by insectaries.  In the United States alone at least 350 varieties have been identified.  The protective work of the ladybird is responsible for a huge saving annually for the country’s farm economy.  Without it, growers would be at a loss to produce substantial crops of needed fruits.

          With no inkling of its significance in their own era or its future role in world agriculture, medieval farmers reverently named the little beetle Our Lady’s Bird.  How appropriate that the creature so named became a protector of our food supply and the symbol of a branch of applied science.  Eyes of faith allow us to see that Our Lady’s Bird is in fact a messenger from a provident God.    






Thursday, July 21, 2016

ACN News - Aid to the Church in Need sends 3,500 young people to World Youth Day 2016



By Maria Lozano


Some 3,500 young people from 29 different countries will be able to attend World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland July 25-31, 2016, thanks to the support of international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Many of the youth hail from countries close to Poland: “The young people of Ukraine, Bosnia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Russia and Macedonia are delighted at this opportunity to come together personally with Pope Francis in Poland.”

“Due to the costs involved, most of them have never had the opportunity to participate. For this reason we wanted this year in particular to enable as many young people as possible to personally experience this closeness with the Pope and with other young people from all over the world.” This was the assessment of Magda Kaczmarek, one of ACN’s project coordinators for Eastern Europe.

Meeting with the Pope and living out the experience of the Universal Church can likewise be a life-changing experience for young people from many of the tiny Catholic communities of Central Asia, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, which is believed to have little more than 100 active Catholics.

The organization has also made it possible for youth from the Middle East to attend World Youth Day 2016. They will represent Churches that are coping with great suffering in countries like Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Their presence will personify both the hope of the early centuries of Christianity and the courageous faith of the present-day descendants of the early Christians.

ACN is also sending youth from Sudan and Bangladesh to Krakow, to represents two more countries where Christians daily face discrimination and violent attacks.

Relying on the generosity of its donors, ACN will be able to make a huge difference in the lives of so many young people.

Their experience of World Youth Day, however, does not just depend on financial support—ACN is also calling on its donors around the world for fervent prayer to make the event a success and to make it possible for youth from countries and regions embroiled in violent conflict to be able to make the journey to Krakow and back home again in safety.

In all, ACN is funding 40 different World Youth Day 2016-related projects, the bulk of them to send youth to Poland. Total funding involved tops $600,000, which also makes possible events in particular countries that will take place simultaneously with World Youth Day, such as a national event in Cuba and other Latin American nations.

Close to one million young people are expected to attend World Youth Day 2016. For more information on ACN’s involvement in World Youth Day 2016, see:



With picture of World Youth Day volunteers (© 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, July 20, 2016

ACN News - Syria – The situation is growing more hopeless



By Andrea Krogmann


A Syrian proverb says: “Whoever rules over Aleppo, rules over Syria.”

Indeed, whoever has control over Syria’s second-largest city has a hold on “the center of the country up to its borders, from east west,” said a Franciscan Friar.

Not surprisingly, the battle for Aleppo has been fierce ever since the country’s civil war started five years ago, Franciscan Father Ibrahim Alsabagh told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

In recent days, fighting has turned particularly intense between rebel groups and the Syrian army. The Franciscan monastery and the districts in the western part of Aleppo, which is under regime control and is primarily inhabited by Christians have again been targeted.

In a single day, about a week ago, “250 rockets fell on the inhabitants of western Aleppo,” Father Alsabagh said, adding that the current situation is going beyond “that which can be endured.”

The priest said that Aleppo is experiencing “the worst moments in its history” and that he is hearing numerous prayers and cries of despair; the people, he said, are praying day and night.

The Syrian army just seized control of the Castello corridor in the northern part of Aleppo, which acts as a supply channel to rebel-held territory. The rebel groups that control the eastern part of the city are getting ready for a siege that will last for months.

With this, the worst fears of Aleppo’s Christians have come true. “It means that we no longer have any chance of living. Some believe that it would almost be better to die,” the priest said.

According to the Franciscan, “two-thirds of the Christians, if not more” have already left the city. With approximately 150,000 believers before the conflict, Aleppo was home to one of the largest Christian communities.

Living in a part of the city controlled by the government, Christians “at least have the right to live and the right to believe in our faith,” the priest said, something that would be unthinkable in rebel-held areas, he charged.

Even though the various groups fighting on the side of the rebels are impossible to identify with any accuracy, Father Alsabagh said, “Anyone who shoots rockets at residential houses, churches, schools and hospitals is not a ‘moderate rebel’!”

The Syrian clergyman strongly appealed to the West: “Close the borders through which the weapons, food and fighters” are coming into Syria.

The priest believes Turkey is the most significant conduit of supplies for rebel forces—and he is concerned that a diplomatic solution to complex conflict is practically impossible.

 “We cannot remain passive in the face of this evil. Our clear answer must be patience and a positivity of action. This is why we are helping where we can by visiting the sick and praying with the faithful.”

In addition to providing pastoral care, the five Franciscans in Aleppo help by distributing food parcels, as well as covering the cost of electricity and medical care, in addition to rent and school fees.

ACN has been supporting the Christians in Aleppo for many years. Programs are administered through local church partners to ensure that those most in need receive help. In addition, the organization provides aid for the homeless.


With picture of destruction in Aleppo (© 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, July 15, 2016

Pope Paul VI encyclical: Christi Matri Rosarii (Rosaries to the Mother of Christ) for Peace



Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Christi Matri Rosarri pleading for worldwide praying of the holy rosary, to be offered especially for peace.  The emphasis is mine.

The following is from his holiness' salutation:

To His Venerable Brothers the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See. 
Venerable Brothers, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
It is a solemn custom of the faithful during the month of October to weave the prayers of the Rosary into mystical garlands for the Mother of Christ. Following in the footsteps of Our predecessors, We heartily approve this, and We call upon all the sons of the church to offer special devotions to the Most Blessed Virgin this year. For the danger of a more serious and extensive calamity hangs over the human family and has increased, especially in parts of eastern Asia where a bloody and hard-fought war is raging. So We feel most urgently that We must once again do what We can to safeguard peace. We are also disturbed by what We know to be going on in other areas, such as the growing nuclear armaments race, the senseless nationalism, the racism, the obsession for revolution, the separations imposed upon citizens, the nefarious plots, the slaughter of innocent people. All of these can furnish material for the greatest calamity.

Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel



Too often these days two of Mary's great and powerful gifts - the Rosary and the Scapular - are being ignored and, sad to say, even totally neglected...

...At Fatima Our Blessed Mother emphasized the importance of these sacramentals.  In fact, she said:  "I am the lady of the Rosary", and she asked over and over again, that the Rosary be prayed daily and often for the conversion of sinners and world peace.  As to the Brown Scapular, in her final appearance at Fatima, Mary appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, holding the Brown Scapular.

As to the Brown Scapular, during the past seven hundred years the Church as encouraged this devotion, and our pontiffs have placed many indulgences upon its devout use.  Numerous authenticated miracles and favors, both spiritual and temporal, have proved the devotion's validity and emphasized Our Blessed Mother's promise that whoever dies wearing the Brown Scapular will be saved.

Fatima or Moscow?  by Clentine Lenta

Fine Art Friday - The Chalice of Christ

July is the month we honor the Precious Blood.  So, this week's Fine Arts Friday honors the Chalice of the Precious Blood in art.

"Christ with the Chalice by Juan de Juanes
Picture source


"Christ with the Chalice" after Sebastiano Conca
Picture source

"St. John the Evangelist Drinking from the Poisoned Chalice" by Bernat Martorell


Picture source

"The Eucharist: a Gold Chalice,  a Host, Two Silver Candelabras in a Stone Niche" by Jan van Kessel


"Ezekiel and the Angel Holding the Chalice of the Passion from the Sacristy of St. Mark" by Melozzo da Forli


ACN News - Syrian Christians fear persecution by ISIS in Lebanon as well



By Andrea Krogmann


Somewhere in the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon (July 13, 2016)—Let us call them Samir and Sabine. Let us say they are in their early 50s, Christians who have fled from Raqqah, Syria, the ISIS stronghold.

“No photo, no names!” Samir’s gesture is clear: otherwise his head will roll, he darkly suggests. Then he lets his arms fall back to his sides, in his hands is a piece of paper: a receipt for the tax on Christians in levied by the Islamic State.

The amount that the jihadists levy per year and family is about $4,000—protection money, but no one is safe from the terror, the man said.

Samir and his family were doing well in Raqqah. And then ISIS came. Samir paid. When the threat became bigger, the family converted to Islam.

“I hated the life, the veil, and that I wasn’t allowed out on the street without a male escort,” Sabine explained. “That is not for us Christians!” Samir prayed at the mosque for the sake of appearances, to protect his family.

Then a car with fighters pulled up at the family home. Someone had denounced the family, saying that they had not really converted to Islam, and that were still praying at home to their Christian God.

Samir and his family were able to flee. They found shelter with a Muslim friend. They made their way to Aleppo, but the terror followed them. “After two months in Aleppo, I received a call. They told me that they would come and kill me,” Samir said.

The family fled again, this time to Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Until the phone rang there again, “We know where you are!” The implied threat drove the family to the Beqaa Valley.

Samir and Sabine are happy that they no longer have to renounce their faith. “We had a picture of St. Charbel with us the entire time, that is what saved us,” Sabine said. They both say that their faith is “stronger than ever.”

However, their faith is also the reason why they want to leave the Middle East. “We aren’t safe anywhere here,” Samir said. The phone has already rung where they are now: “No matter where you are, we will find you!”

“There are families here who had to climb over the corpses of their neighbors so that they could flee,” said Sana, the only one to give her name. Sana is Lebanese and, with the support of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the international Catholic charity, she has been helping the refugees in her city since the beginning of the Syrian crisis.

“Their children are still drawing these scenes of horror today.” It will take time to come to terms with this trauma, but Sana is happy that some of the refugees have started to talk about what they have experienced. 

She calls herself Maria. The Christian from Sadat does not want to tell her own story and talks about her neighbors instead.

“That night in October 2013,” she said, “the men from ISIS came. They called out ‘Allahu Akbar’ three times. Then they killed everyone: the grandmother, the grandfather, the parents, the daughter and the son.”

“Three generations. They threw the corpses into the fountain.” Maria falls silent.


Andrea Krogmann is a reporter for KNA, the German Catholic news agency.


With picture of graffiti in the town of Zahle, in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley (© 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


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

ACN News - In Venezuela, ‘the people are afraid’


By Maria Lozano


Venezuela was once the country of dreams—but those dreams have turned into nightmares. Such is the verdict of one of the country’s bishops.

Case in point, Bishop Jaime Villarroel of the Diocese of Carúpano, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that most of the young people in the north-western state of Sucre have left their university studies because they “do not have the money for paper, let alone for photocopies or pens.”

A university education has become the privilege of a select few, the prelate charged, adding that many young people join gangs or become criminals: “The people are afraid,” he continued, as drugs, murder and torture have now become part of everyday life.

“We are worse off than ever. Hospitals have neither medicine nor bandages. There is no food in the houses. Trucks are constantly being plundered because the people are hungry and no longer have any regard for anything,” the bishop said.

Citizens receive food rations each month that include flour, noodles, butter and sugar, but the portions are too small.

“Each family receives 300 grams of powdered milk, half a kilo of pasta or 200 grams of butter. If they would like to buy something else, such as meat, eggs or fish, then they have to pay for it with money that they don’t have,” Bishop Villarroel said.

He continued, “The children especially are suffering from malnutrition. The food rations are supposed to be enough for a month, but they don’t even last a week. The people are fainting from hunger.”

“Famine reigns, which used to be unthinkable for Venezuela. We no longer know what to do or to whom we should turn. The police and also the politicians are often corrupt. We feel forsaken.”

The Church has a crucial role in mitigating best it can the impact of the crisis. “It is our job to be there for our people and to relay a message of trust in God. Pastoral visits are a source of great strength in this terrible situation,” the prelate stressed.

However, the Church is also battered itself. In the Diocese of Carúpano—where only 2 percent of the people go to Mass, and where evangelization efforts “haven’t reached the hearts of the people”—the bishop said, churches and even cathedrals are subject to violent attacks.

Elsewhere, four young seminarians were recently assaulted and humiliated—with no response from authorities.

Bishop Villarroel said the Church and its people have to do their utmost to persist in a “culture of survival,” a severe test for the spirit of the country.

In 2015, Aid to the Church in Need funded 27 pastoral projects in Venezuela with a total of more than $220,000 in grants. Another 15 projects are being funded this year, the bulk—like last year—going to publishing initiatives, because the shortages of basic goods, including paper, make it practically impossible to produce catechetical materials.


With picture of Venezuelans at Mass (© 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, July 06, 2016

ACN News - Iraq – ISIS abandons a town, destruction remains



By Mark Riedemann


It is the silence that you notice first. Not just a lack of noise but an absence of sounds. Even the birds have left. I am in Telskuf, Iraq, about 20 miles north of the Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold of Mosul and a mile and-a-half from the front line.

The town is abandoned; its inhabitants, including approximately 12,000 Christians, fled the advance of ISIS militias during the night of August 6, 2014, finding refuge in the nearby city of Alqosh or in the Kurdish capital Erbil.

Under a blazing sun, we press against the shadow of abandoned shells: houses with gaping mouths, pockmarked walls fronted by the husks of blackened cars betraying the brutality which took place just a few weeks prior. On May 3, 2016, hundreds of ISIS fighters, multiple car bombs and suicide bombers broke through Kurdish lines before a counterattack supported by US airstrikes turned ISIS back.

Casualties included three Kurdish fighters and a 31-year-old US Special Forces soldier. According to unconfirmed reports by Peshmerga soldiers, more than 50 ISIS soldiers were killed. They were photographed and then bulldozed into a roadside grave. The earth is still fresh.

I am walking through the town as part of a delegation from the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). We have come in a visit of solidarity to the Christian town of Alqosh. Roughly 10 miles from Telskuf, Alqosh is the last remaining major Christian city on the Plain of Nineveh in what once was a valley full of Christian villages—the great majority of them since occupied and destroyed by ISIS.

It’s there that the Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi has organized support for the more than 500 displaced families in addition to the village's existing 1200 families. All are seeking work where there is none.

The Catholic Church is the main provider of social care and, above all, hope. As Bishop Maqdassi explains, the youth are discouraged, finding themselves in a world that is wasted.

We make our way to Telskuf's Catholic Church. Again the silence is broken only by broken glass underfoot. The church has been looted and destroyed. The statue of the Virgin Mary has been desecrated, the head cut from her body—the symbol of beheading the signature of ISIS. The Peshmerga soldiers with reflective sunglasses and guns cradled take positions at key vantage points: the dome, broken windows, the bell tower, all to assure our security.

We kneel to pray in what was the choir loft. Led by Father Andrew Halemba, who oversees ACN’s Middle East projects, we pray the Lord's Prayer for peace, our normally easygoing and cheerful group shocked and silenced.

A Christian general, a generous man with graying temples waits respectfully and when we are finished implores us to join him for a meal. Although time doesn't allow for many stories, he tells us that he fights ISIS so that those who live in the remaining Christian villages in the region may be protected.

We walk back through overturned streets. I wonder when the birds will come back.


With picture of street scene in Telskuf (© 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