By Marta Petrosillo
International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has launched a worldwide campaign that calls on the faithful to help the sick and suffering around the world with acts of charity.
The “Be God’s Mercy” campaign has the Church’s most important backing—that of Pope Francis, who personally endorses the four-month-long initiative that will conclude Oct. 4, 2016. On that day, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, ACN officials will present the Pope with the “first fruits” of the campaign.
At a press conference formally launching the campaign, the Pope—in a video message—called on Catholics around the world to “carry out works of mercy together with ACN, in every part of the world, in order to meet the many, many needs of today.”
Projects that will benefit from the unprecedented fundraising effort—driven by all of the 22 national offices of ACN—will include pastoral ministry in prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, the funding of support groups for battered women, and aid for refugees.
The very first benefactor of the campaign is Pope Francis himself who—prior to a recent visit by an Italian delegation of ACN to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan—entrusted a donation to the organization earmarked for Iraqi Christians.
The papal gift will be presented to St. Joseph’s Clinic in Erbil, which offers free medical care to some 2,800 refugees of various religious backgrounds.
Present at the press conference were ACN’s international President Cardinal Mauro Piacenza and General Secretary Philipp Ozores. Along with other members of the ACN delegation, the officials were received in a private audience by the Pope just prior to the press conference.
The press conference—which was moderated by the Vatican’ media spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi, SJ—featured an account by Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan on how local Christian communities have reacted to the Easter bomb attack on a local park that killed 76 Christians, including 30 children.
Three projects in the “Be God’s Mercy” campaign will support the Church in Lahore, partly to aid victims of an earlier March 2015 attack on two churches in the city’s Christian quarter and partly to improve security measures for one of these churches, the Church of St. John, as well as for the nearby diocesan seminary of St. Francis Xavier
The relationship between Pope Francis and ACN goes back a long way. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio carried out a number of projects with the help of ACN, which he described, in a letter written to mark the 60th anniversary of the charity, as a “symbol of communion and fraternity with the suffering Church.”
For more information about the Be God’s Mercy Campaign, please consult the multi-lingual website www.acnmercy.org
With picture of Pope Francis (© ACN)
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.