The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been elevated by Pope Benedict XVI to the status of a Pontifical Foundation. The official seat of the foundation is the Vatican. This canonical act was enacted by a Chirograph, an official document in Latin personally signed by the Pope.
The Pope assigned the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza as the President of the Foundation. He in turn has nominated Baron Johannes Heereman von Zuydtwyck as Executive President, with immediate effect as of December 1st, 2011. The international headquarters of ACN will remain in Königstein, near Frankfurt am Main, Germany. For the 30 years preceding his present appointment, Baron Heereman was Secretary-General, and later Executive President of the Knights of Malta in Germany. Concurrent to this nomination, Father Martin Barta was appointed the Ecclesiastical Assistant of ACN. Father Barta is a member of the Clerical Association “Work of Jesus High Priest.”
The initial impulse for the founding of ACN came from Pope Pius XII. Inspired by the Pope's plea just after the Second World War to reach out to the 14 million post-war refugees in Germany, the Norbertine priest Werenfried van Straaten launched an appeal for reconciliation through charitable deeds. As among other things he collected bacon, he soon became known as the "Bacon Priest."
Today ACN is a worldwide community of over 600,000 friends and benefactors which support approximately 5,000 aid projects every year in over 140 different countries. In 2010 the total amount of donations came to over $115 million. The ACN benefactors are taken care of through 17 national offices in Europe, North and South America and Australia.
In the Chirograph signed by the Holy Father, he emphasizes the decades-long services of ACN to the Church. Now a Pontifical Foundation, ACN will continue as before, in a spirit of active charity to help wherever the Church faces hardship or persecution. As a pastoral charity, acting in the name of the Church, it is committed to strengthening and deepening Catholic faith and moral life.
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.