Aid to the Church in Need received almost 8,000 funding applications during 2016 and thanks to the generosity of our benefactors managed to support 5,303 projects in 148 countries with over € 81 million in project aid.

In all of this ACN’s foremost duty is to provide spiritual and material support through the local Church to those who suffer persecution or repression for the sake of their Christian faith. No viable request from a persecuted Church should ever go unanswered for lack of financial means. We should help here before we help elsewhere. But thankfully thanks to the generosity of our benefactors and all our colleagues, who are involved in raising funds and awareness for this suffering Church, we also have the means to support the Church in those parts of the world, where extreme poverty, wars or aggression from other faiths, are a hindrance to her mission of proclaiming the Word of God.

The projects we support are primarily pastoral in nature, i.e. Faith-related. On average 30% of expenditure goes on constructions, whereas formation (training future priests and sisters, ongoing formation of priests and religious, faith formation for laity), which is a priority, makes up some 21%. Clearly it costs more to build a seminary than to train its seminarians.

In 2016 we spent over €11,9 million on mass stipends or 15% of the budget. This means a constant increase in the last few years, e.g. in 2011 we only spent €9,8 M resulting in an overall increase of 18% by 2016.

Normally, we have only a small budget for humanitarian projects but the situation of the Christians in the Middle East – in particular in Syria and Iraq -in most recent years, has meant that we have been more active in providing significant emergency aid in order that the Christians there can continue to exist in what is the cradle of Christianity.

We also support by exception schools in countries such as Sudan, where the Christians are a minority in a Muslim society and the Catholic Church can only ensure that a Christian education is provided by running her own schools.

In all our project work, what is important for us is the dialogue with the local Church. The bishops and the religious superiors are our partners and we have to be attentive to what they have to say, to know where their priorities and needs lie. Very often we can help them meet the challenges that they face with the financial means at our disposal but sometimes the solution does not lie in funding and it is our prayers and the prayers of our benefactors that help them through a situation that might seem insurmountable in human terms.


Middle East

As a Foundation that has as its priority both the material and spiritual support for persecuted Christians, it is no surprise that in the Middle East, we have seen a dramatic increase in our aid since the outbreak of the war in Syria in 2011 followed by the exodus of the Christians from the Nineveh Plain in summer 2014.

In 2016 we spent some €18,2 million on projects in the region meaning that the Middle East makes up around 22,5% of our project budget. For the moment it is difficult to imagine that this will change greatly in the next few years. Even if some of the Christians in northern Iraq return to the Nineveh Plain in the course of this year, we might not have to provide as much help for Iraq in the long run but the needs of the Christians in Syria will continue to require much support.


Africa

In 2016 around 27,5% of the budget went to this large and still young Church in Africa. It is for us the largest-growing region in terms of number of applications. They make up some 34% of projects received. This reflects the growth and development of the Church in Africa.

We pay particular attention to those countries or regions in Africa, where we see a growth in an aggressive form of Islam that was not evident before such as in the Sahel countries, Northern Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania even Madagascar or those beset by violence and conflicts e.g. Dem. Rep. of Congo, Central African Republic.

The bishops in Africa stress the importance of having better formation for their priests and religious and of strengthening the faith of their people so that they can withstand the many threats from both within and outside the continent. Because of the increase in applications and in budget, we now have four project sections for Africa and have increased our staff.


Asia and Oceania 

Received around 16% of the project budget in 2016. Many countries or regions remain a priority for ACN: the countries that have suffered – and still suffer to varying degrees -under Communism for decades such as China, Vietnam or Laos. Or the increasingly radical Hinduism that affects the Christians in India.

There are countries like the Islamic State of Pakistan or parts of the Philippines, especially the Muslim dominated region of Mindanao. But there is also good news in parts of the vast region, e.g. in 2014 we spent over €1.0 million helping to rebuild churches destroyed by the typhoon Yolanda in December 2013 (the earmarked donations for the Philippines in 2013 and 2014 amounted to € 1, 419.105 -the total spent for the Philippines at the end of two years was € 2, 505.899).

So it was that last year we were able to visit the ten churches successfully rebuilt with this aid.

We are currently supporting the reconstruction of the major seminary in Palo that was also badly damaged by the same typhoon.


Central and Eastern Europe

With the collapse of Communism, in the early nineties we were able to dedicate around 50 % of our project budget to helping the Church in Eastern and Central Europe. In the last 25 years we have invested heavily in constructions, especially in seminaries but also in churches, convents, priests’ houses etc.

An important aspect of our work has been support for training future priests and sisters. While we continue with the formation programmes, a lot of infrastructure has been put in place and so in the last few years there has been a natural reduction of requests and of our support for some of the countries of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

In 2016 around 14,6% of the budget went to this region. Priority countries are still:

Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Bulgaria and the countries of Central Asia.

In the Balkan region we see a worrying development of a radicalised Islam and so we need to show this small Church in these countries that they are not alone and to provide the support needed to keep them strong in their Faith.

Elsewhere in those countries that now belong to the European Union, our focus will be more on initiatives for new or re-evangelisation, especially in those countries where secularism is encroaching on the Faith.

In the field of ecumenism in Russia, we are enabling exchanges between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Russia on common areas of concern, e.g. persecuted Christians, protection of the faith in families or in cultural activities, in pilgrimages etc.


Latin America

Latin America has seen a decrease in our support over the last few years (2016: 15%). Nonetheless, certain countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay and the countries of Central America remain a priority , because of the challenges to the Church ensuing from the political or economic situation.

We also continue to give priority to the Church in Haiti, because of the extreme poverty and the rebuilding process after the earthquake that is still continuing.

In Latin America, following the continental mission announced at Aparecida, Brazil in 2007, our focus is on formation programmes for seminarians but also for the laity (catechetical, biblical apostolate), media projects and when we fund new churches, then often these are in the marginal areas of large cities, where there is a huge influx of people from the rural areas.

A small part of our budget goes to projects in the so-called developed countries. If we include the international projects for the World Youth Day in Cracow, we arrive at some 4,4% of the total budget.

Following the exodus of Catholics fleeing Communism in the Iron Curtain countries in the 1950s, we started helping refugees in Western Europe and today we either have projects for the pastoral care of new refugees from the Middle East or for migrant workers from the Ukraine, for example. We also include the Church in the diaspora of Scandinavia in this budget as well as some initiatives for New Evangelisation.

In 2016 one significant project was the launching of the DOCAT -the youth catechism on the social teachings of the Church – at World Youth Day in Cracow.

Regina Lynch – Director of Project Department 


This article can be found in Mirror 0517.