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Aid to the Church in Need

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aid to the Church in Need
German: Kirche in Not
FounderWerenfried van Straaten
Founded atWest Germany
Typepastoral aid organization
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza
Parent organization
Catholic Church

Aid to the Church in Need (German: Kirche in Not, Italian: Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre) is an international Catholic pastoral aid organization, which yearly offers financial support to more than 5,000 projects worldwide.

Aid to the Church in Need's General Secretariat and Project Headquarters is in Königstein, Germany. With 23 national offices, Aid to the Church in Need provides aid to Catholic communities in around 140 countries around the world. In 2021 the foundation funded 5298 projects in 132 countries.[1]

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The lives of Christians are today threatened in more than 40 countries around the world. As local Churches struggle to celebrate the sacraments, teach the Gospel and strive to give people their dignity, the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need works throughout the world, to help the poor and persecuted Church witness the Faith. Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, a Dutch priest inspired by the commandment to 'love thy neighbour', set himself a seemingly impossible task in 1947 – to support starving German refugees with donations of food, blankets and clothing. And yet, his appeals released a flood of generosity. Where no money was available, people offered food, including bacon – which quickly earned him the name “The Bacon Priest”. Aid to the Church in Need supported a vast number of unique projects, from the purchase of cars and motorcycles to mobilize “backpack priests”, to the construction of chapel trucks, and the training of seminarians behind the Iron Curtain. In 1984, the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy officially recognized the charity as a “Universal Public Association of the Faithful”. Today, Aid to the Church in Need is an international organisation, with offices in 17 countries managing some 10,000 project requests a year, from over 140 countries. Though the Church suffers a crisis of vocations, in some parts of the world thousands of young men hunger to offer their lives to God. For many, it is a difficult journey of suffering, poverty and persecution. Many students pray, sleep and study in one room, often unheated. Here, in one underground seminary in China, up to twelve share one concrete bed. To enable them to answer God’s call to the altar, Aid to the Church in Need supports over fifteen thousand of these future priests around the world. Nonetheless a scarcity of priests and religious has led local bishops to encourage lay leaders and catechists to undertake many of the responsibilities of evangelization. Aid to the Church in Need supports this missionary work, through such programmes as the “Little Evangelizers”, where young adults spend two years bringing a Christian presence to isolated villages – often the first contact villagers have with Christianity. In numerous remote areas – from Asia to Latin America – the simple problem of transportation often determines whether people receive the sacraments, and hear God’s word, or suffer spiritual isolation. Communication media remains the most powerful tool of evangelization. That is why the Church seeks support for media projects, particularly in countries where communicating the Christian message remains vital to the development of democratic institutions. Aid to the Church in Need responds to appeals from Catholics and Orthodox alike, helping them rebuild churches, to provide places of worship for the ever-growing numbers of faithful. Efforts to support the Orthodox are a reflection of the charity’s historical principle of working towards reconciliation. Churches of both traditions, closed for more than fifty years, are now open once more – a sign of Christ rising from the ashes of persecution. Where the people cannot go to the Church, Aid to the Church in Need supports projects that bring the Church to the people. The need to support the Church’s reconstruction is also apparent in another part of the world, though the need here comes from a growing, rather than declining threat. Although its roots are deep, there is an increasing concern – after 2000 years – that the future of Christianity in the Middle East faces a silent, but pervasive danger. Christianity is in effect disappearing – a modern day exodus, the consequence of an ever growing presence and forceful expression of fundamentalist Islam. “Under Communism, I realized that what the world and the Church needed most was prayer,” explains one contemplative Sister: “The most we can do is what we do through prayer”. Aid to the Church in Need helps active and contemplative nuns around the world. Sisters, faithful to their vocation, pray for their benefactors daily. Today, vocations are plentiful, but many nuns remain poor and in need of support. The Bible continues to be the world’s longest running bestseller in publishing history. However, there are countries where millions of children grow up without access to God’s basic teaching. Aid to the Church in Need has printed and distributed more than 48 million copies of The Child's Bible, in over 162 different languages. For many, it is the only book they will ever own. The pastoral support offered by Aid to the Church in Need, does not lie in relieving the immediate after-effects of a disaster, but rather in responding to local Church appeals for material and spiritual help in the aftermath of natural disasters, that so often inflict such a heavy penalty on those who already have so little. This contradiction, this sign of hope amidst grinding poverty is most evident in Africa – a continent of impoverished millions, where over half of the world’s conflicts are fought … … and where the AIDS epidemic is decimating the population. It is indeed here that a sign of hope is most needed, and where Aid to the Church in Need is enabling the religious to persevere: in prayer and action. God promised the Church neither renown nor comfort in this world – a world covered with millions of crosses; a Calvary of our times. Yet, the Cross gives us hope. The vertical beam directs us to God, the source of all love, whilst the horizontal beam, draws from this source and calls upon us to extend this love to all our brothers and sisters. It is the Cross that has guided the pastoral work of Aid to the Church in Need, and the Cross that inspires the love of its benefactors to help those who are unable to carry this Cross alone. As Jesus said, "Whatever you do unto the least of my brethren, you do unto Me”.


The roots of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) go back to the time after World War II. For the Dutch priest Werenfried van Straaten[2][3] the Stunde Null was the starting point of his life's work. In 1947 he founded Aid to the Eastern Priests, centred in Belgium, aimed mostly at providing material and pastoral support to displaced Germans, including Catholic priests from East Germany. Although the initial goal was to aid refugees who fled or were expelled from Eastern Europe in the wake of the Second World War, many of them Catholic,[2] in 1952 the organisation began to work to help persecuted Christians behind the Iron Curtain. In 1961 work spread to Christians in difficulty in Asia, and in 1965 to Africa.[4]

In 1984 ACN was recognised as a Universal Public Association of Pontifical Right, and later, during his pontificate, in December 2011, Pope Benedict XVI recognised the importance of Aid to the Church in Need's work by elevating the charity to a Pontifical Foundation of the Catholic Church. At the same time, the Pope appointed the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, to the position of President of the Foundation.[5][6]

By a personal decision of Pope John Paul II, in 1992, following the end of communism across most of Eastern Europe, ACN begins to work towards dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, and in 2007 Benedict XVI asks the organisation to intensify its work in the Middle East, as Christians face rising persecution there.[4]

In 2019 Aid to the Church in Need becomes involved in the Safeguarding project, helping local churches to introduce measures to prevent abuse, and encouraging safeguarding courses for priests and religious worldwide.[7]

Religious Freedom Report

Every two years ACN publishes an exhaustive report on the state of religious freedom across the world. The report highlights cases of persecution and takes religious freedom as a whole, not limiting its analysis to Christian or Catholic communities.

The first report was published by ACN Italy in 1999. It now examines 196 countries along almost 800 pages, is published in six languages, and tracks evolution of Religious Freedom in each country compared to previous years.[8]

The most recent report was published in 2023, and found that "persecution increased since January 2021, while impunity continues to be the rule when it comes to attackers, including oppressive governments."[9]

Red Week

Red Week is an annual event that calls attention to persecution of Christians all over the world. It traces its roots to Brazil in 2015, when the local ACN office had the Christ the Redeemer monument lit in red to mark the persecution of Christians in Iraq. In April 2016, inspired by the same idea, ACN Italy illuminated the Fontana di Trevi. ACN UK took the idea further and created #RedWednesday to commemorate all persecuted Christians on a specific Wednesday in November, and this was later expanded to a whole week in many countries. Currently, events held during the whole month, in over a dozen different countries, though the term #RedWeek is still used.

In 2022 more than 600 buildings in at least 17 countries were illuminated in red between 16 and 23 November to remind people about religious freedom and the situation of persecuted Christians all over the world.[10]

One Million Children Praying the Rosary

Every year Aid to the Church in Need partners with other organisations to promote the “One Million Children Praying the Rosary” campaign, in October. The goal is to get as many young people as possible, all over the world, to pray for peace.

The initiative began in 2005 in Venezuela, and ACN became involved in 2017.[11]

Families, churches, schools, movements or individuals can sign up for the event online, providing an estimate of the number of children taking part. In 2022, according to this data, at least 840 thousand people from 140 countries prayed for the same intentions on 18 October,[12] with Pope Francis mentioning the event and asking people to take part during his Angelus address.[13]

Child’s Bible

The “Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his children” was first published by ACN in 1979. The book includes illustrated key stories of the Old and New Testaments, and the purpose is to contribute to evangelisation, allowing children and others to read the Bible stories in their own languages.[14]

Since first being published, the Child’s Bible has been translated into 193 languages, including many tribal languages. In some cases, according to the organisation, it was the first book published in that specific language.

In total, over 51 million copies of the Bible have been printed and distributed among different linguistic communities.[15]

Sexual Assault Allegation

In 2021 Die Zeit published an article which made known the existence of a letter from 2010 indicating that Werenfried van Straaten was accused of committing sexual assault in 1973 against a 20-year-old woman working for the charity.[16][17] In a statement consisting of questions and answers, the charity responded to the disclosure and noted that "ACN deeply regrets the serious allegations and condemns any kind of behavior of which Father van Straaten has been accused in the article."[18]


  1. ^ "ACN raised record amount for persecuted and suffering Christians in 2021". ACN International. 2022-06-17. Retrieved 2023-01-06.
  2. ^ a b "Obituaries: Father Werenfried van Straaten". The Daily Telegraph. February 1, 2003. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  3. ^ Bogle, Joanna (2001). Fr Werenfried: A Life. Gracewing. p. 20. ISBN 978-0852444795.
  4. ^ a b "Our History". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-01-06.
  5. ^ "Aid to the Church in Need is raised to the status of a Pontifical Foundation by Pope Benedict XVI". Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  6. ^ "Pope declares Aid to Church in Need a pontifical foundation". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  7. ^ "Safeguarding". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-01-06.
  8. ^ ACN. "Religious Freedom Report". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-05-05.
  9. ^ ACN (2023-06-22). "Religious Freedom Report 2023: Persecutions worsens, impunity increases". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-10-25.
  10. ^ ACN (2022-12-01). "#RedWeek 2022: in solidarity with persecuted Christians". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-05-05.
  11. ^ ACN (2017-10-09). "Children pray for peace in the world 2017". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-05-05.
  12. ^ ACN (2022-10-20). "840,000 people prayed for unity and peace!". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-05-05.
  13. ^ ACN (2022-10-18). "Pope Francis invites to prayer campaign". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-05-05.
  14. ^ ACN (2021-07-27). "Distribution of Child's Bible in Zimbabwe". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-05-05.
  15. ^ ACN (2023-01-12). "New Bible translation for Amazonian indigenous". ACN International. Retrieved 2023-05-05.
  16. ^ Raoul Löbbert; Georg Löwisch (10 February 2021). "Pater Werenfried van Straaten: Gut und Böse". Zeit Online. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  17. ^ "Aid to the Church in Need confirms 'credible' accusation of 'serious sexual assault' against founder". Catholic News Agency. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  18. ^ "Questions & Answers regarding the article "Gut und Böse" in the ZEIT supplement "Christ&Welt"". Aid to the Church in Need. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2021.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 November 2023, at 21:50
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