Thursday, April 20, 2017

ACN News - The missionary vocation of the Church in Africa




In an interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah, speaks about the contribution of the Church in Africa to the Universal Church, about Islam in Africa and the world, about relations between the Church and politics and the challenges facing the Church in Africa. The cardinal insists that "the Church needs unity of faith, unity of doctrine, unity of moral teaching. It needs the primacy of the Pope."

By J├╝rgen Liminski


What is the relationship between the African Church and the Universal Church?

Your question, as you put it to me, presents me with something of a difficulty, because in reality the Church here in Africa is part of the Universal Church and thus forms together with it a sole and single Church. Hence there is no such thing as an "African Church" and, as distinct from it, a "Universal Church."

Your question makes it appear as if ecclesiology depends on a communion between the Churches, and in this you are correct. Nonetheless, we need to remember that the Universal Church is not a sort of federation of local churches. The Universal Church is symbolized and represented by the Church of Rome, with the Pope at its head, the successor of Saint Peter and the head of the apostolic college; hence it is she who has given birth to all the local churches and she who sustains them in the unity of faith and love.

As Saint Ignatius of Antioch tells us (circa 110 AD) the Church of Rome is the “All-pure Church which presides in charity.” Thus it is the profession of our common faith and our fidelity to Christ and his Gospel, in union with the Pope, that enables the Church to live in communion.

Is this absolutely essential in order to avoid confusion? Can there not also exist national Churches ?

Without a common faith, the Church is threatened by confusion and then, progressively, she can slide into dispersion and schism. Today, there is a grave risk of the fragmentation of the Church, of breaking up the Mystical Body of Christ by insisting on the national identities of the Churches and thus on their capacity to decide for themselves, above all in the so crucial domain of doctrine and morals.

As Pope Benedict XVI tells us: “It is clear that a Church does not grow by becoming individualised, by separating on a national level, by closing herself off within a specific cultural context, by giving herself an entirely cultural or national scope; instead the Church needs to have unity of faith, unity of doctrine, unity of moral teaching. She needs the primacy of the Pope, and his mission to confirm the faith of his brethren.” Besides, Africa has always considered and seen the Church as a family, the family of God.

And what is the contribution of the Church in Africa to the Universal Church today?

In this we are faithful to the ecclesiology of the Epistle to the Ephesians: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). And even though the Church in Northern Africa is very ancient, yet today the Church in sub-Saharan Africa, sees herself as the missionary fruit and the daughter of the Churches of the West.

She still needs to be able to rely on the theological, liturgical, spiritual and in particular the monastic experience, and also on the financial support of the Churches of the ancient Christianity of the West.

For her part the Church that is in Africa can humbly offer the West the marvels that God has worked in her through the Holy Spirit, and the tribulations that Jesus continues to endure in the sufferings and material needs of his faithful there.

What are the needs of the Church in Africa?

They are many: disease, wars, hunger, the critical lack of educational and healthcare structures. Then there are the toxic temptations of Western-born ideologies – communism, gender ideology... Africa has become the dumping ground of contraceptive products, of weapons of mass destruction. She is also the scene of the organized theft of primary mineral recources: it is to this end that they organize and plan the wars and foster disorder on the African continent. So it is that they exploit her natural resources in the absence of any rules or laws.

The world economic powers must stop pillaging the poor. They take advantage of their poverty and lack of education, and their own technology and financial wealth, in order to foment wars and loot the natural riches of the weaker nations without financial resources.

Does Islam represent a threat to the survival of the Catholic Church in Africa?

For many centuries sub-Saharan Islam has coexisted peacably and harmoniously with Christianity. On the other hand the Islam that takes the form of a political organization, intent on imposing itself on the whole world, is indeed a threat, and not just to Africa. In fact, it is above all a threat to the societies of the European continent which too often no longer have a true identity or a religion.

Those who deny the values of their own tradition, culture and religion are condemned to disappear, for they have lost all their motivation, all their energy and even all the will to fight to defend their own identity.

In what way can ACN, as a pontifical foundation, still better help the Church in Africa?

Today all the charitable organizations, even the Catholic ones, are focused unilaterally and exclusively on addressing situations of material poverty, but “man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” as Jesus tells us (Mt. 4:4). I therefore encourage ACN to give aid for the formation of priests, seminarians, male and female religious, for catechists, for the construction of churches and seminaries and for spiritual retreats for bishops and priests.

I humbly beg all the friends and benefactors of ACN to continue generously supporting the great missionary work of ACN throughout the world and particularly in Africa. For it is true that those bishops and priests who do not take the time – at least for a few days – to place themselves in the presence of God in solitude, silence and prayer, risk dying on the spiritual level, or at the very least, drying out spiritually within. They will no longer be capable of providing solid spiritual nourishment to the faithful entrusted to them if they themselves do not draw strength from the Lord in a regular and constant manner.

Should we also speak of the political problems?

The Church is gravely mistaken as to the nature of the real crisis if she thinks that her essential mission is to offer solutions to all the political problems relating to justice, peace, poverty, the reception of migrants, etc. while neglecting evangelization. Certainly, like Christ, the Church cannot disassociate herself from the human problems. Besides, she has always helped here through her schools, her universities, her training centres, her hospitals and dispensaries...

Nonetheless, I would like to cite to you the words of an Italian who has converted to Islam (and there are over a hundred thousand like him in Italy). His name is Yahya Pallavicini, and today he is an imam, the President of  CO.RE.IS  (the Islamic Religious Community) and a professor at the Catholic University of Milan:  “If the Church, with the obsession she has today with the values of justice, social rights and the struggle against poverty, ends up as a result by forgetting her contemplative soul, she will fail in her mission and she will be abandoned by a great many of her faithful, owing to the fact that they will no longer recognize in her what constitutes her specific mission.”


With picture of school children in Wau, South Sudan; Cardinal Sarah; (© 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 fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

ACN News - Christ’s bounty in Damascus



By Archbishop Samir Nassar


Behind the scenes, quietly and discreetly, 82 women religious belonging to various congregations are serving the Church in Damascus. They are the great force, which, drawing strength from the breath of the Holy Spirit, gives life to charisms of the Gospel in a country torn apart by war. They do so without getting tired or being afraid.

Witness

Some of them are living in small communities, housed in the large schools they used to run but which were nationalized in 1968; others live in small hospitality centers or in modest apartments among the people, living a life of poverty, prayer and praise.

Listening to the most vulnerable

These consecrated religious are always at the ready to welcome and listen to the most vulnerable of the city’s residents. They provide for the most urgent needs, especially during these years of war and isolation. They store up, in their hearts, all the suffering and need of this vulnerable population, forgotten in their misery and insecurity. Defiant of powerlessness, these men and women religious put up a wall of lamentation with their love, ensuring a charitable presence among people who have lost everything.

Faces of compassion

The engagement of our beloved Sisters who serve families is made manifest by their presence at child-care centers, in schools, dispensaries, eating places, as well as catechetical and formation centers. Let us salute their heroic mission as they take care of the needs of the sick, the wounded and the aged, all of them burdened by war. Theirs is a pastoral vanguard.

The promise of a future

This ‘experimental’ mission of our dear Sisters remains focused on the schools, the formation of children and young people. This educational service transmits values of peace, tolerance and dialogue, all geared toward a destroyed homeland and the renewal of the Church. Let’s salute all the types of psychological support for the victims of war, especially the children, the young people, their lives wounded by violence, delinquency and exclusion.


Gratitude

This beautiful witness of light, hidden and barely known, doesn’t it deserve some gratitude and recognition? Dearly beloved consecrated women in Damascus, the Resurrected Christ will thank you and bless you!

Easter 2017

Archbishop Nassar is the Maronite ordinary of Damascus.


With picture of Syrian 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 fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

ACN News - Pray for Egypt’s Christians!



By Eva-Maria Kolmann


In the wake of twin terror attacks on two churches in Egypt that killed 44 people, Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut called on Christians around the world to pray for the victims.

On Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017, two suicide attacks unleashed carnage in two Coptic Orthodox churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria. The strikes also wounded at least 120 worshippers.

"Prayer is the most important thing we can ask for at this time,” the bishop told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The prelate said he was not entirely surprised at the new attacks, referring to bombing of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Cairo last December, which killed almost 30 people.

"Our sense of security was not very strong,” Bishop Kyrillos said.

The bishop emphasized that both the government and the country’s Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic Churches will ramp up their collaboration to ensure the security of Christian places of worship.

The bishop said: "I was visited by a security official who asked me what we need now. He made the suggestion that we could train young people and adults, and that all resources could be pooled in order to increase security.”

“Here in Assiut there are 550 Christian churches. Thank God, nothing has happened here so far, but we are too little prepared for such events.”

Asked about the danger of an exodus of Christians from Egypt—as has been happening in Iraq and Syria—Bishop Kyrillos expressed the conviction that these attacks would not create any large-scale exodus of Christians from Egypt.

"In Egypt the people feel a close bond with their country and all of them see themselves as Egyptians – whether they are Christians or Muslims.”

“There is a stronger sense of solidarity among the population here than elsewhere,” he said, and the bishop suggested that the intention of the terrorists is to destroy this solidarity.

The bishop said that the visit of Pope Francis to Egypt, scheduled for April 28-29, 2017, is "more important now than ever.”

He is convinced that the trip will not be called off, since, he said, the Pope has already “shown the courage, precisely in such situations, to come and strengthen the people.”

Bishop Kyrillos expressed confidence that the Pope will send out a clear message of peace when he visits the country.


With picture of candles in a Coptic Orthodox Church (© 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 fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Friday, April 07, 2017

ACN News - Witness to the persecution of Christians in North Korea


By Father Philippe Blot


Father Philippe Blot, who belongs to the congregation of Paris priests committed to serve in foreign missions, has visited North Korea on several occasions, taking considerable risks. He spoke late last month at Notre Dame Cathedral, during the “Night of the Witnesses,” an initiative of the French office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).


Recently, I was able to travel to North Korea and, despite the constant surveillance by the police, I was able to verify the truth of various reports and hear numerous witness stories from North Korean refugees.

First of all in the hospitals: the situation is critical—no antibiotics, no dressings, not even any soap. To give you just one example, instead of bottles of serum for the transfusions, they use beer bottles filled with boiled sugar water!

I was able to visit some schools. They illustrate the chronic malnutrition of the entire population—with the exception of the apparatchiks of the regime of course! One needs to know that a North Korean child, aged seven, measures on average 8 inches less and weighs 22 pounds less than a child in South Korea.

The refugees [I met in South Korea] were unanimous in telling me that in North Korea, “you have to bribe some member of the party or of the army in order to obtain basic necessities.” Hence corruption is the order of the day.

I was surprised not to see any handicapped people. The truth is that the North Korean regime, racist and eugenicist, is obsessed with the notion of racial purity in which those designated “abnormal” have no part. Consequently they are expelled from the major cities.

North Korea is a country so closed that no one can enter or move around without a visa— “including God,” as the refugees add with a touch of black humor. The two principal pillars of the repression are, on the one hand, total control over all the movements of the population, and on the other, enforcing complete ignorance about the outside world.

North Korean refugees who have succeeded in escaping discover to their astonishment a reality that is totally different from what they have been told ever since birth.

They describe all the unbridled Marxist propaganda inflicted on the people in order to make them zombies, submissive to the Communist Party. The dictator is presented as a veritable “god,” an idea unfailingly promoted in every speech, in all the teaching, all the information.

The Kim dynasty is the object of a frenetic propaganda effort, with its 30,000 giant statues and portraits in every town and village and it slogans inscribed on vast billboards on every street and road.

North Koreans are taught to spy on their neighbors and colleagues and denounce one another for any failing in their duty towards the “Great Leader.” After the arrest of the transgressor, the whole neighborhood and the family are rounded up in order to criticize the transgressions of the supposed delinquent. Then he is either deported, or everybody witnesses his execution.

Many thousands of Christians are languishing in these deportation camps. Eyewitness reports and the observations of Western satellites allow for an estimate the number of persons detained in these veritable concentration camps—anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals.

The brutality of the camp guards is the daily bread of these prisoners, who work 16 hours a day, suffer atrocious torture, to say nothing of the public executions of those deemed to have been recalcitrant.

Among these “political prisoners” those who suffer the worst treatment are the Christians, since they are regarded as spies, as “anti-revolutionaries of the first class.”

According to the regime there are around 13,000 of them, but according to humanitarian organizations there are 20,000 to 40,000. They are singled out for the cruelest treatments of all—they are crucified, hanged from bridges or trees, drowned, or burnt alive. Some forms of torture are too horrible for words.

The rulers of North Korea have banished all forms of religion, particularly Christianity and Buddhism—because, according to Marxism, religion is the “opium of the people.” North Koreans do not know what a Bible is, nor consequently who God is.

A few years ago, with great fanfare of propaganda, the government opened a Catholic church, a Protestant temple, and an Orthodox church in the capital—but of course they are nothing but mere showpieces!

Yet despite all this, there is an underground Church in North Korea, which is subject to continued persecution. North Korean refugees confirm that they have seen neighbors arrested for praying, at home or in a secret place.

Some information does manage to filter through; for example, two years ago, a pregnant woman aged 33 was arrested in possession of 20 Bibles. She was beaten severely, then hung by her feet in public.

In May 2010, some 20 Christians were arrested; they were part of a clandestine Church. Three of them were immediately put to death and the rest were deported.
It is thought that since 1995 at least 5,000 Christians have been executed, solely because they were praying secretly or distributing Bibles.

Many North Koreans have become Christians thanks to the presence of foreign missionaries on the border. It is also known that some American and Canadian pastors of Korean origin are currently imprisoned in the political prisoners’ camps for having helped the refugees.

Refugees, when caught, risk being forcibly repatriated—which means prison, torture, the camps and death. If they are not repatriated, they risk falling into the hands of criminal organizations which traffic in human organs.

Women and young girls risk being kidnapped by gangs and sold to peasants or, still worse, to brothel owners. A young Korean girl can be sold for $800-$1200.

And so, as a missionary and as a Catholic priest, I am speaking here on behalf of all those Koreans who for more than 60 years have been living the longest Way of the Cross in human history.

I speak on behalf of those who have had an eye torn out, or another organ—without anesthetics—so that they can be transplanted into rich Chinese, Japanese or others! I am speaking on behalf of all those North Koreans who are victims of the slave traders!

The attempts by these thousands of men, women and children to flee are a fact of major importance, and we need to emphasize the political and diplomatic aspects of it.

Unfortunately, the countries closest to North Korea, and also those further afield in Europe or America, are demanding no more than a few changes, in the name of « human rights », without actually challenging the status quo – seemingly for the sake of « maintaining international relations », they tell us – in reality to guarantee a « peace of compromise ». In effect they are postponing indefinitely the liberation of North Korea, and hence also the reunification of the country.

In conclusion, calculating things on a strictly geopolitical basis, the 21 million North Koreans risk having to wait a long time before seeing any radical improvement in their lot… Barring an intervention of God, that is, something we pray for ardently every day for this crucified people.

Merciful Lord Jesus,
I beg you to deliver our North Korean brothers and sisters from the chains that have held them captive now for over 70 years already.
Turn your loving gaze upon this suffering people …
Teach peace to the Korean nation, cut in half, north from south, by a fratricidal war. Help us to contribute to reconciliation and do not let us be carried away by despair.
Good Shepherd, reunite in your arms all our North Korean brothers and sisters,
one by one.
Envelop them in your tender saving love.
May Our Lady of Fatima bring down the wall of communism
and help them to discover the freedom and joy of living as children of God.


With picture of monument honoring founding of country's communist party (top); party propaganda billboard (© 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 fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

ACN News - On the Nineveh Plain, Churches unite to rebuild Christian homes




By Daniele Piccini


In an unprecedented act of ecumenical collaboration, three Iraqi Churches have joined forces to execute a plan to rebuild Christian homes on the Nineveh Plain.

Under the auspices of international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), on March 27, 2017, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church—at a ceremony in Erbil, Kurdistan—formally established the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC).

The Committee is tasked with planning and supervising the rebuilding and repair of the homes of their respective faithful, which were damaged and destroyed during the occupation of the Nineveh Plain by ISIS.

The Committee is comprised of two members from each of the three Churches, as well as three outside experts. ACN will pursue advocacy and fundraising in support of the Committee’s formidable task: more than 12,000 homes need to be rebuilt, at a likely cost of more than $200M.

Funds will be allotted according to the number of homes belonging to faithful of each of the three Churches.

Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Timothaeus Mosa Alshaman of Antioch and prior of the Monastery of Saint Matthew, declared: “Today, we are truly a united Church—Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic—united in the work of rebuilding these houses on the Nineveh Plain; and in restoring hope to the hearts of the inhabitants of these villages, inviting those who have left them to return.”

Father Andrzej Halemba, head of ACN’s Middle East desk, stressed that the establishment of the Committee is not first and foremost about finding funding.

“We have not done it for money,” he said. “We have done it to ensure that the Christians can remain in Iraq. We are working for God.”

Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul declared: “I would like to invite the Christians of the Nineveh Plain to return to their homes and resume living in their villages, in order to bear witness to Christianity.”

“Today we join together to demonstrate that we are united in our wish to accelerate this operation as rapidly as possible, and that it must start as soon as possible.”

Saying that the courage of the three Christian Churches to work together is an echo of the courage of those Christians who have decided to stay on in Iraq, Chaldean Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi of Alqosh proclaimed: “This is a brave step forward, which gives us great joy and encourages the Christians to remain in their villages and their own country.”

Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan called on Catholics and all Christians around the world: “We are the roots of Christianity. We must remain in our country.”

“We must remain as witnesses to Jesus Christ in this country, in Iraq and especially on the Nineveh Plain. This task of rebuilding all the houses in those villages—where ISIS has destroyed everything—is truly an enormous challenge. Thank you in advance to all those who will help us.”


With picture of ACN project head Father Halemba looking on as Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Mor Timotheos Mousa Al-Shamani of Bartellah signs the ecumenical agreement establishing the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (© 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 fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Thursday, March 30, 2017

ACN News - Iraq – ISIS gravely damaged 12,000-plus Christian homes on the Nineveh Plain



By ACN staff 

ISIS damaged more than 12,000 private homes in 12 Christian villages on the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq. Close to 700 homes were completely destroyed.
These were some of the findings of a damage assessment commissioned by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). According to the study, the costs for repairing and rebuilding homes will exceed $200M.
The assessment initiative also queried 1,500 families who fled to Erbil, Kurdistan, after ISIS swept through the Nineveh Plain the summer of 2014 as to their potential plans for returning to their abandoned villages. More than 40 percent indicated that they wanted to return, and 46 percent said that they were considering it.
Last November, an ACN survey found that only just over 3 percent of nearly 6,000 IDP families were considering returning to their home villages. Of course, last fall there will still combat operations on the Nineveh Plain, with ISIS militants launching stealth attacks.
In the latest survey, more than half of respondents reported that their possessions had been plundered, while 22 percent said that their houses had been destroyed.
About a quarter of respondents was unable to provide any information on the current condition of their homes and belongings. However, more than 25 percent also reported that their vital documents had been stolen by ISIS.
Cared for by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, with significant support from ACN, there are still 14,000 Christian IDP families who fled from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain living in Erbil. That total makes for approx. 90,000 people, down from the original 120,000 who sought shelter in Erbil in the summer of 2014.

With picture of damaged residence in Qaraqosh, Nineveh Plain (© 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 fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Thursday, March 16, 2017

ACN News - In Syria, the absurdity, cruelty of war continue



By Maria Lozano


“Before the war, Syria was widely respected in the Middle East. Education and healthcare were free. Homs was developing very well; people were earning a reasonable salary, food was not expensive and many people could afford to buy a house or a car. I was studying to become a dentist.”

The speaker is Majd J. and she is a volunteer for a project funded by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need to help families in need in the city of Homs. The eyes of this young Syrian woman shine brightly as she sits in her overcoat to protect herself from the cold—there is no heating in people’s homes. The windows in many of the houses are smashed because of the impact of missiles.

Majd relates how one family lost their son, who died of his illness for lack of medication, and how they now have another who has been diagnosed with cancer. Another family has just lost its father, who died of a heart attack as a result of the stress and suffering of the last few years. With tears in her eyes, she looks straight at me and says, very slowly: “I understand nothing of this conflict. Nothing.”

Many miles away from Homs, in the region of Zaleh, in Lebanon, where many thousands of Syrians have taken refuge—Christians and Muslims alike—the father of a family comments: “The cure has been worse than the sickness. There were problems with Assad, but what has befallen us since then with the Islamic State has been simply inhuman.”

“In the town of Rakkah we weren’t allowed to smoke in the street, and girls of six had to cover up completely before going outside. We were living in fear every day.”

Syrians continue to suffer, even though the media seem to have fallen silent since the conclusion of the battle for Aleppo. However, the situation in that city continues to be precarious. Electricity is scarce, and there is no steady supply of water—weeks can go by without; and there is a grave shortage of fuel for heating and cooking.

Wearing a scarf bearing the Arabic word for “Syria,” a pregnant woman is weeping. In her womb, two babies are fighting each other. The mother is holding a dagger, threatening to stab herself. This is one of hundreds of drawings sent to ACN by both Muslim and Christian Syrian children, who were asked to express their feelings about the country’s civil war. This drawing’s stark message is all too clear: Syria is continuing to kill its own.

Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, ACN has committed more than $15M in aid to the suffering Christians of Syria, helping countless Muslims in the process.


With picture of drawing by a Syrian child sent to ACN (© 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

Thursday, March 02, 2017

WAY OF THE CROSS



by Brother John Samaha, S.A.


Christians have never been required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as Muslims have been required to visit Mecca to commemorate Muhammad's hegira or flight.  Rather Christian holy places have been transported to churches  across the world in the form of the stations of the cross.  "Making the stations" requires only moving from one station to the next.  The stations themselves, although often accompanied by elaborate artistic depictions, are simply small wooden crosses.

        A tradition holds that the Virgin Mary daily retraced the steps of the way of the cross.  However, only in the Middle Ages did this devotion flourish.  In the earliest centuries of Christianity the focus was on the risen Christ.  Medieval Christians emphasized the passion and death of Jesus and wished to tread in his very footsteps.  Those who could afford to do so made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.   Others had the Holy Land brought to them in the form of the stations of the cross, reproductions of the holy places of Jerusalem erected in their locales. 

        When the Franciscans were given custody of the holy places of Jerusalem in 1343,  they aroused in the faithful an active interest in the passion of Christ.  In the eighteenth century the Franciscan St. Leonard of Port Maurice, "preacher of the way of the cross," spread the devotion widely, making it possible for non-Franciscan churches t0 have the stations.  Previously this was not allowed. 


        Originally fourteen stations were the norm.  In 1975 Pope Paul VI approved a fifteenth station, the resurrection.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A Lenten Reflection - The Story of a Prince



"There was once a king, lord of many kingdoms, who had one only son, so beautiful, so holy, so amiable, that he was the delight of his father, who loved him as much as himself. This young prince had a great affection for one of his slaves; so much so that, the slave having committed a crime for which he had been condemned to death, the prince offered himself to die for the slave; the father, being jealous of justice, was satisfied to condemn his beloved son to death, in order that the slave might remain free from the punishment that he deserved: and thus the son died a malefactor's death, and the slave was freed from punishment."

- Saint Alphonsus di Liguori, The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ACN News - South Sudan’s bishops cry out for aid, protection for civilians

By Esther Gaitan-Fuertes


The “people live in fear.” That was the thrust of an urgent pastoral appeal issued by South Sudan’s seven bishops, who charged both government troops and the armed opposition with using force against civilians as part of an ongoing civil war in the country.

A copy of the bishops’ pastoral letter was obtained by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The prelates wrote: “Some towns have become ‘ghost towns’, empty except for security forces and perhaps members of one faction or tribe. Even when they have fled to our churches or to UN camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces.”

The bishops insisted that the humanitarian crisis that grips South Sudan is mostly due to insecurity and poor economic management: “Millions of our people are affected, with large numbers displaced from their homes and many fleeing to neighboring countries, where they are facing appalling hardships in refugee camps.”

The bishops have called on Caritas South Sudan and its international partners to act urgently to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan; they also called on the international to intervene.

The Church leaders, expressing concern that “some elements within the government appear to be suspicious of the Church,” affirmed that the Church does not take sides in the conflict.

The wrote: “We are FOR all good things - peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of law, good governance – and we are AGAINST evil - violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression.”

The bishops expressed their readiness to meet with any party “who we believe has the power to change our country for the better.”

The bishops called on Catholics in South Sudan to “work for justice and peace; reject violence and revenge.” They also asked for prayers that Pope Francis’ intention to visit the nation later this year will become a reality.


With picture of displaced children in South Sudan (© 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

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Meatless Recipes in time for Lent - Corn Chowder and Vietnamese Vegetarian Bahn Mi Sandwich

Corn Chowder

Kernels from four fresh ears of corn (or 2 cups frozen)
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 celery stalk, minced
1 large potato, diced
2 Tablespoons butter
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 can evaporated milk (or 2 cups half and half)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot.  Add the onions, garlic and celery and cook until wilted.  Add the corn and potatoes.  Stir and add the brother.  Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer.  Adjust seasonings.  When potatoes are cooked, add the milk and bring to a boil.  If the soup needs further thickening, mix together 1 to 2 tablespoons flour with 1/2 cup broth or water until smooth and add this to the chowder.  Heat until soup thickens.







Vietnamese Vegetarian Bahn Mi Sandwich

Mini French Bread
Cilantro leaves
Vietnamese Carrot and Daikon Pickles
Watercress leaves (optional)
Jicama slices (optional


Carrot and Daikon Pickles

2 large carrots
1 medium sized daikon (white radish)
2 Tablespoon sugar
1 large teaspoon Hawaiian rock salt (or Kosher)
1/4 cup Rice wine vinegar

Julienne the carrots and daikon uniformly.  In a large bowl add the rest of the ingredients and let the sugar and salt dissolve.  Add the julienned carrots and daikon and let rest until liquid from the vegetables are released.  NOTE:  if eating in the sandwich, make sure to drain the pickles otherwise the sandwich will be soggy.

To assemble, place the bread in the oven and turn on the oven until it pre-heats.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Slice open the bread but be careful not to cut all the way through.  Remove the inside of the bread if needed.

Place a layer of the pickles inside each roll, layer with cilantro, watercress and Jicama slices.

Serve immediately.


Bishop Larry Silva's Pastoral Letter Regarding the Threat of Physician Assisted Suicide

To the Parishioners of the Diocese of Honolulu regarding Assisted Suicide Dear Sisters and Brothers

Peace be with you! 

At this time our beloved State of Hawaii is considering going the way of other states in making physician assisted suicide acceptable and legal. We need your prayers and your involvement to assure that this does not happen.

We presume that those who are proponents are acting out of what they believe to be very noble intentions. However, assisted suicide is yet another manifestation of what St. John Paul II referred to as the “culture of death,” while we are always committed to a culture of life. 

Proponents do not refer to this as “suicide,” since suicide always implies a tragic choice, but rather as compassion in choices. Can anyone be opposed to compassion? And does not God himself give us freedom to make choices in our lives? As your pastor it is my obligation to expose what seems to be an act of goodness and caring as just the opposite, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing appears to be what it is not. 

Proponents speak of the autonomy of the individual to make his or her own choice about when to die when faced with a painful or debilitating terminal illness. What strikes me as ironic, however, is that people have been committing suicide quite autonomously for thousands of years; yet now, in the name of “autonomy” one must have the permission of one’s doctor, lawyer, and legislature. Seeking such societal approval betrays full autonomy and exposes the fact that, deep down, people know this is not something good. The authority of others is being sought to give permission for what is against our human nature.

Another reality involved is our “disposable culture” as Pope Francis calls it in his critiques. In this worldview, human beings who are unproductive, weak, and vulnerable lose their “value,” and this diminishes their true humanity. It cannot be denied that terminally ill people have burdens to bear that are very heavy, and their caretakers also have many hardships. It costs a tremendous amount of time and money to care for someone who is very sick. Yet true compassion means “suffering with” someone – or allowing others to suffer with us – and while it is very humbling, the most intimate bonds of human caring can be nurtured in just such circumstances. I recall a friend who was dying of AIDS who told me he began to consider the disease a blessing – not for the suffering and ultimate death it would bring, but because he learned how many people truly cared for him. By allowing himself to be vulnerable to them, he learned that compassion is a form of love that binds us together quite intimately.

We often hear the Scriptures say, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10; Psalm 111:10). This means that we are wisest when we recognize that we are not gods ourselves, making all our own choices and creating our own realities, and when we realize that God’s law is not burdensome but the way that guides us to true human freedom. Although God always gives us freedom to choose whether to worship and obey God or not, he also makes it clear that there are consequences to our choices. While we know that God is merciful and compassionate beyond our imaginations, he also has taught us that we can choose to reject him, and such a choice leads to our eternal detriment. Wisdom dictates that if one decides to take to him- or herself the decision about when life should end, rather than leaving that decision to God, one should be aware of the real possibility that such a choice could backfire. If a person is suffering tremendously in this life and takes the decision to escape by ending one’s life, there should be no surprise if on the other side of this life, there is suffering that cannot compare to any earthly suffering. And there is no medication that will allow one to escape from this eternal suffering! God wants to give us eternal life and joy, but the wisdom that takes us there is fear of the Lord.

We are talking here, of course, of those who, with clear mind and will, decide to end their lives. We know that most suicides are committed by people who do not have clear minds and wills, whose depression has locked them into such darkness that they do not think there is any other escape besides suicide. Just as we view this as a tragedy, but still feel real mercy toward the person, I am sure God’s mercy also goes out to these tortured souls. But the proposed law that allows physician assisted suicide usually stipulates that the person must be terminally ill and make a full and conscious choice to request the “medication.” Perhaps in some way, this is even more tragic for the person who ends life in this way, perhaps for the loved ones, and certainly for society itself, which actually fails in its compassion and mercy.

 A bishop in a state that already allows physician assisted suicide spoke of his mother in a care home, and how she was so readily offered the choice of ending her life with medication. It was an indicator that once the door is open to embracing death so easily, the slope to euthanasia – or a culture of euthanasia – is not far behind. It is certainly cheaper and easier to end a life than to care for it in the midst of suffering. Will decisions be made on economic expediency? Will others around the patient, such as heirs, be more motivated to aid in the rapid demise of the patient for their own benefit? Will this be another weapon in the hands of those who already abuse the elders they care for, a problem that has become quite serious?

In light of all I have said, however, I do want to speak of the Church’s desire to care for the sick and to alleviate as much pain as possible. Physicians have told me that these days palliative care is so well developed that no one need suffer the tremendous pain that often comes with a terminal illness. While there is a sense in which suffering can be redemptive, united to the sufferings that Christ himself endured on the cross, the control of pain is certainly advisable and available. Nor does the Catholic Church teach that a terminally ill patient must exhaust all extraordinary means of medical care until the very end. Dying is a natural part of life, and it is meant to be the gateway to eternal happiness with God. But such is only possible when a person recognizes God’s sovereignty and does not give such sovereignty to any person or any institution, including oneself.

As faithful citizens of Hawaii and stewards of the Gospel, I ask you all to:  Pray fervently that physician assisted suicide will not be permitted in our state;  Sign the petition that is being distributed by the Hawaii Catholic Conference and encourage your family and friends to do the same;  Contact your legislators and to ask them not to allow physician assisted suicide in our state, no matter with what euphemistic name it is cloaked. Visit https://www.hawaiifamilyforum.org/action-center/ to find out who your legislator is, send an email to your legislator and to sign an online petition. By signing up online, you will find out exactly when the bills are being heard and any call to action.

 The suffering of others is a call to us all, not to end life by offering a lethal “medication,” but to care for them in love, even when it is most difficult to do so. It is the way of love and true compassion that will lead to eternal joy in the presence of the One who is Love!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Larry Silva Bishop of Honolulu


Monday, January 23, 2017

ACN News - In South Sudan, survival is daily struggle for ordinary citizens



In South Sudan, survival is daily struggle for ordinary citizens



South Sudan, located in the heart of Africa, is the youngest nation in the world; it gained independence from Sudan in July 2011. Two years later, a civil war broke out, pitting the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) against the opposition; the conflict has since become a brutal tribal war.

The UN estimates that there are 1.7 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in the country, 75 percent of whom are struggling to survive in the three states hardest-hit by conflict, Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), an international Catholic charity, recently spoke with a pastoral worker in South Sudan who asked to remain anonymous.

By Maria Lozano


What role does tribal culture play in the conflict?

There is the mentality that holds that the tribe is the most important social unit, and that individual lives have to serve the tribes, as directed by councils of elders, even today.

Many tribes coexist in South Sudan, fighting for cows as symbols of power and wealth. Conflict has never been rooted in hate or genocide; the pursuit of wealth was the cause of any fighting.

In short, the people of South Sudan lack a sense of national identity. Their allegiance to their tribe comes first—and that often leads to conflict.

What is happening today, however, is that the leaders of different tribes fight, not for cows, but for political power and money (e.g. oil, timber, minerals). These elites care more for their own advantage than for the well-being of the people, many of whom are starving; inflation in the country has hit 800 percent!

Perhaps the worst aspect of the conflict is that tribal leaders present their struggle for political and economic power as an ethnic conflict—which it is definitely not.

What is the impact of the conflict on ordinary citizens?

They have to leave their lands when conflict erupts; they lose all their possessions—cattle, homes, land. They become IDPs or they flee the country to become refugees. In either case, they are forced to live in camps where there is lack of food and water; where there are no schools—where, in short, there is no future.

Most of the families have lost loved ones in the fighting; some have been recruited by force, even children; women suffer rape and violence, and then are stigmatized because of being violated.

There is a grave shortage of medical care, in particular, and there are growing number of deaths among the elderly, women and children. International aid falls far short.

What is the work you are doing in the country?

We work with the local Catholic Church—training teachers, nurses, midwives, and agricultural workers. We are also training pastoral agents, to prepare them for the work of evangelization, as well as peace-building and reconciliation efforts.

We also operate student centers. Students come from different tribes and they live and study together, peacefully—building a mentality of unity among themselves as a bulwark against ethnic hatred.

The result is a living witness that unity and fraternity are possible in South Sudan.


Since its independence, ACN has supported projects in South Sudan for more than $4.2M. The help went to pastoral aid, Mass stipends, the building of Church infrastructure, as well as humanitarian supplies.


With picture of displaced children in South Sudan (© 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 06, 2017

ACN - Mother & son survived two years under the thumb of the Islamic State



By Jaco Klamer


Late last year, Ismail fled Mosul with his mother Jandark Behnam Mansour Nassi (55), the two having survived ISIS’ reign of terror for two years. From the safety of Erbil, Kurdistan, the Iraqi Christians, former residents of the town of Bartella, on the Nineveh plain, told their story to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).


“I was put in the prison of Bartella,” confirms Ismail. “One day a Shiite was shot dead right in front of me. The terrorists told me: ‘If you do not convert to Islam, we will shoot you as well.’ That is when I converted to Islam. From that time on, we concealed that we were Christians.”

“We received a document from ISIS stating that we were Muslims,” continues Ismail. “That way, I could go out on the street in Mosul, though you could not be sure of your life. Once, I was beaten up because my trousers were too long.”

“Another time, when I was going to the mosque with the jihadists, our path was blocked. Suddenly we were passed by men in orange suits, held at gunpoint by a group of ISIS children. The children executed them with pleasure.”

“Another time I ran into a big crowd on the street. There was a woman; her hands and feet were tied. The ISIS terrorists drew a circle around her. If she got out of the circle, she would live, but that was impossible because she was tied up. While her relatives were crying and begging for a pardon, the jihadists threw stones at her until she died.”

Ismael’s story continues: “ISIS put me in a correctional camp. I had to grow out my hair and grow my beard. My mother got a black, all-concealing robe, but she was not allowed to go outside. ISIS warriors wanted me to marry, so I would be one of them. I objected, stating that I was too young: just 15. But even boys as young as 13 were getting married.”

“My son was forced by ISIS to practice Islam and I was tortured for not knowing anything about Islam and the Koran,” says his mother. “I am embarrassed for having had to profess Islam,” says Ismail.

He adds: “Men were forced to pray in the mosque on Friday. Anyone who would walk the streets during Friday prayers would be beaten. Preachers proclaimed that Assyrians were evil and that Christians did not believe in the right way.”

“Then the ISIS warriors discovered my necklace with a cross. They beat me and I had to study the Koran for a month. I was hit whenever I could not answer their questions the way they wanted me to, and my mother was stung with long needles because she had not studied anything from the Koran.”

Then the battle for the liberation of Mosul began in the fall of 2016. “When the terrorists grew too busy with the battle, they abandoned us,” says Ismael, continuing: “We took a taxi to the front, heading towards our freedom, but ISIS snipers tried to shoot us. We ran for cover into a house.”

“After hours of fighting, my mother and I were able to leave the house, waving a white flag. Soldiers of the Iraqi army welcomed us. We were free!”

        ​
Ismael and his mother (© ACN, photo by Jaco Klamer)


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