Lebanon - Forever grateful and loyal

It was late summer 1977, and war was raging in Lebanon. Journalists sat in the safety of West Beirut; while bombs fell on the Christians in the East. The western media portrayed the Christians as fascists. They felt abandoned. So Father Werenfried sent someone to survey the situation in the Christian area.

He came by sea from Cyprus, since the airport was unsafe, visiting the refugee camps, where no UN representative had set foot, and the overcrowded Maronite monasteries in the mountains. He saw the needs and wrote down what the people needed.

He brought them hope. Later his visit was followed by deliveries of medicines, milk powder and blankets. To this day the older Lebanese Christians still speak with gratitude of Father Werenfried’s messenger of hope.

‘During the war and in the decades that followed, you understood our needs and stood by our side’, 

writes Maronite Archbishop Chucrallah Nabil Hage of Tyre. In his diocese, which extends to the frontier with Israel, the persecution and oppression of the Christians has never really ceased. During the war they were caught between the Israelis and the Hezbollah militias.

The churches were their refuge, their help came from the priests. And the same is true today. Many of the refugees from Syria have found temporary refuge and a little bit of security here, either staying with relatives or in accommodation provided by the Church.

‘My 25 priests are wearing themselves out on their behalf’, says Archbishop Chucrallah. ‘I go begging everywhere in order to strengthen and encourage them. So that they can experience the solidarity of other Christians.’

In this same spirit the Archbishop is also asking us for Mass stipends. He has learned from Father Werenfried to place his requests in God’s hands. He writes,

‘If you can help me, then I will be very grateful to you. If you cannot, I will nonetheless never forget what you have already done us. I remain for ever grateful and loyal to ACN and you can be sure that I will continue to pray for you every day. May the Lord bless you and shower you with his abundant graces, his peace and his joy.’ 

In Saint Matthew’s Gospel we read how Jesus went ‘to the region of Tyre and Sidon’ (15:21) and praised the woman who pleaded with him for her faith. This faith and this Christian presence have survived, to an remarkable degree, despite all the persecution. The Maronites have always been in communion with Rome.

We have sent the archbishop and his 25 priests 1,250 Mass stipends. They will remember you all in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


This article can be found in Mirror 0717.


Egypt - Salvific Suffering - Persecution

Declaring the power of salvific suffering, the Apostle Paul says: ‘In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church’.

So begins Salvifici Doloris, the apostolic letter on suffering by Saint John Paul II. Christians in Egypt are living out Saint Paul’s words in their daily lives. They are one of the earliest Christian communities of all, yet time and time again they are the targets of murderous attacks against them. Their churches are bombed and burned, their young girls abducted and raped by Islamists.

Christians on the Nile are walking a Way of the Cross leading them through unknown terrain. Yet they are determined to stay on in their native homeland, despite everything. Many of them even have the courage to profess their faith openly by having a cross tattooed on their forearm. For they know that the Gospel message also embraces the Passion.

The Coptic Catholic patriarchate wants to teach the true meaning of this suffering and thereby help the faithful to bear it. Christ is their example to follow, His Passion is the doorway to redemption.

The patriarchate has asked our help to print 5,000 copies of a Way of the Cross booklet. It will be given to the faithful in all the churches. Everyone wants to join in this prayer. They are praying for the survival of the Church of the Nile, of the Body of Christ in Egypt. Let us not forget them in our prayers.


This article can be found in Mirror 0617.


The Shared Love of God’s Children Unites Us

Sister Solange of the Daughters of Saint Paul in Madagascar is happy to see her apostolate bearing fruit. The ACN Little Catechism in French and the Rosary booklet in Malagasy, the language of Madagascar, are very much in demand.

‘The Rosary booklet for children is used in the schools as a teaching book, and the Rosary booklet for the older ones is very popular both with adults and young people for their personal prayer or in their prayer groups’, she writes. In fact she is already starting to run out of these booklets. And here the Faith is growing.

Sister Solange thanks you from the bottom of her heart for your help, which is making a difference. ‘The shared love of the children of God unites us’, she writes. She is so happy for this, and so grateful.


This article can be found in Mirror 0617.


Senegal - Jesus invites us - School Catechism

‘Every one of the baptised needs and has the right to an appropriate catechesis.’

This is the motto of the catechetical department of the diocese of Dakar and Medina in Senegal. Its goal is to support the Church-run Catholic schools in the country.

Here, where 90% of the population are Muslims and just 5% are Christians, and where three in every five people are younger than 20, the catechism ensures spiritual survival. Only a few young people here have access to mobile phones or other modern means of communications, so books are essential. As many people are still illiterate the books help to teach them.

‘Our Church is young and dynamic’, says Father Raymond Ndione, who is responsible for distributing the catechism. And he adheres closely to what Rome says – that the catechism must be appropriate in its methods and must strengthen the Faith.

This is exactly what the 72-page catechism book ‘Jesus, you invite me’ is and does for the classes of 7 to 8-year-old pupils. The need is great, and now he has to print 6,000 more copies. In many cases it is the only book these schoolchildren have, and even though it only costs less than one euro, they still cannot afford it. So we have promised Father Raymond to cover the cost of a reprint, so that the pupils can respond to the invitation of Jesus.


This article can be found in Mirror 0617.


Pakistan & CAR - God’s Masterpieces

For Pope Francis the family is a ‘masterpiece of God’, rooted in our very human nature. This divine masterwork still needs helpers to shape and support it. The situation varies from country to country. Here are two examples:

In the diocese of Hyderabad in Pakistan there are around 50,000 Catholics living among 28 million Muslims. In such an overwhelmingly Islamic environment Christian married couples have a prophetic role to play. It is hard to teach the sacrament of marriage –

  • the equal dignity of husband and wife,
  • the mutual respect and love,
  • the indissolubility of marriage and lifelong fidelity.

And still more so when the families concerned belong to the poorest section of society.

Yet it is here that the helpers of God’s masterpiece are visiting families and organising courses, teaching couples

  • how to communicate with love,
  • how to resist outside pressures through the grace of the sacraments, and
  • how to resolve conflicts within the family.

They are preparing young couples for marriage and teaching them how to behave towards each other, to respect and understand the femininity and masculinity of the other.

Six Catholic couples have offered up their time and energy to train for this family apostolate and now they are passing on their knowledge to other couples.

17 parishes are still waiting for helpers, as the courses cost money which the diocese does not have. Bishop Samson Shukardin has asked our help, and we have promised to help him so that he can fund the programme for the next three years and this support and nurture this ‘masterpiece of God’.

This same nurturing is also important for the archdiocese of Bangui in the Central African Republic. Here they face additional problems –

  • AIDS,
  • very young mothers,
  • numerous war orphans and
  • lone parents as a result of the three-year civil war.

The training to be given to the 78 married couples – who will subsequently work as pastoral assistants in the parishes and accompany and support the families and mothers – will be based on the papal teachings, including

  • Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI,
  • Familiaris Consortio by St. John Paul II and
  • Amoris Laetitiae by Pope Francis.

These 78 couples are a task force for peace. For as John Paul II wrote, ‘The family creates the peace of the human family’. We have promised the Archbishop the support he needs for this masterpiece of Peace in Bangui.


This article can be found in Mirror 0617.


Something Big for the Family

‘We need to do something big for the family, something like the Child’s Bible.’

Father Werenfried, ACN’s founder, often expressed this wish. He could see the connection between the Gospel message, life, the family and the young people of the Church. Today ACN Child’s Bible has been published 51 million times in 187 languages and 202 different countries or regions.

And for young people we also have the YOUCAT series, now in a number of different titles – a catechism, a youth Bible, a prayer book, a Confirmation book, a Confession book, and as DOCAT, a practical summary of Catholic social teaching. The publication of this series is supported by the pontifical foundation ACN. The YOUCAT catechism alone has now reached 4 million copies in over 150 different countries.

Last year, thanks to your generosity we were also able to fund the publication of numerous other liturgical and religious writings and books in a total printing of some 1.5 million copies.

We are trying to do what Father Werenfried wanted: Something big for the family.

The Holy Bible remains the most widely read book in the world, with an estimated total printing of around 3 billion copies.


This article can be found in Mirror 0617.


The Devil’s Greatest Trick is to hide in plain sight

It’s been said that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And the new head of the Jesuit order seems to have fallen for it.

Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, the Jesuit’s Superior General, said in an interview with the Spanish paper El Mundo3 that Satan is a ‘symbolic figure’ who doesn’t really exist.

‘We have created symbolic figures, such as the Devil, in order to express [the reality of] evil,’ said Fr. Abascal when asked if he believes evil is a process of human psychology or comes from a higher being.

The Catholic Church however teaches, that Satan is a real being, a fallen angel who was cast from Heaven into Hell after rebelling against God.

‘The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The Devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”’ states the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

‘Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This ‘fall’ consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign,’ it adds.

Fr. Abascal in referring to the devil as a symbol follows a current trend within the Church of downplaying and even denying the existence of hell altogether.

Cardinal Francis Arinze however strongly urges4 those who disregard hell as a place ‘invented’ to scare people into acting a certain way need to listen to the message from Our Lady of Fatima.

Sr. Lucia recounts that in one of the visions Our Lady showed the three children hell. They saw a ‘great sea of fire’ into which were plunged demons.

‘The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent,’ she recounted.

‘There are people who don’t want us to talk of hell. But hell is not something that was invented in the Vatican,’ Arinze said.

Arinze said that Jesus Himself confirms in the Gospels the reality of hell as a place ‘where are there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

‘Christ himself said that. He spoke of those who would be thrown out into the exterior darkness. He spoke of those who would be punished for always. And Christ is the son of God. If anybody is merciful, it is He. So, if He said that to us, it is in our own interest to take it seriously,’ he said.

In the Gospels Jesus is clear, that Satan exists. 

  • He cast out numerous demons (Mk. 5:9. Matt. 8:28-34).
  • Referring to the fall of the angels, Jesus told His disciples that He saw ‘Satan fall like lightning from heaven’ (Lk. 10:18).
  • And Jesus constantly warned His listeners about the reality of hell in His preaching and parables.
  • Those who in unrighteous anger call their brother ‘fool’ are ‘liable to the hell of fire’ (Matt 5:22).
  • Speaking about the seriousness of sin He said it is better to lose part of your body than for your whole body to be ‘thrown into hell’ (Matt. 5:29).
  • Calling His followers to Holy fear, He urged them to be afraid of being destroyed ‘both body and soul in hell’ (Matt. 10:28).
  • He spoke of a day of judgment in one parable where the weeds are separated from the wheat, tied into bundles, and ‘burned’ (Matt. 13: 24-30).
  • On many occasions Jesus spoke of a place where there will be ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt. 22:1-14, 24: 36-51, 25: 26-30, and Lk. 13:22-30).
  • In the parable of the sheep and goats He spoke of a place of ‘eternal fire’ and ‘eternal punishment’ for those who failed to love God in their neighbour.
  • He warned that giving scandal could lead sinners to a place where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched’ (Mark 9:42-48).
  • In the story of Lazarus and Dives, the rich man is on one side of a ‘great chasm’ and in ‘agony in this fire’ for his selfishness (Luke 16:19-31).

Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen warned about the great lengths to which Satan will go to convince the world of his nonexistence so he can work as he pleases.

‘Nowhere in Sacred Scripture do we find warrant for the popular myth of the devil as a buffoon. Rather is he described as a fallen angel, and as ‘the Prince of this world’ whose business it is to tell us that there is no other world,’ he said.

‘His logic is simple: if there is no heaven there is no hell; if there is no hell, there is no sin; if there is no sin, there is no judge, and if there is no judgment then evil is good and good is evil,’ he added.

The Devil’s greatest trick is to hide in plain sight and not been seen because his existence, the existence of Hell and the reality of sin are denied or being dismissed far too lightly.

 

Adapted and edited from an article in LifeSiteNews June 2, 2017.
3 May 31, 2017
4 LifeSiteNews interview May 2017


This article can be found in Mirror 0617.


The Way of Peace - Interfaith Dialogue

‘There can be no religious justification for violence, in whatever way it may manifest itself. … Dialogue is the way of peace.’

These words of Pope Francis, given at an international peace meeting in Rome on 30 September 2013, have not fallen on deaf ears. They are being translated into practical action in a range of different initiatives, almost all of them initiated by Christians.

In the Catholic run Al-Liqa Centre in Jerusalem, Israel, Christians and Jews, and Christians and Muslims meet together. Al-Liqa means ‘encounter’ and the centre organises talks, discussion forums, youth meetings and workshops for believers of all religions. The discussions are altogether down to earth and practical. The young people deal with the concrete issues such as ‘Life in a pluralistic society’.

And the dialogue is continued in the quarterly Al-Liqa Journal, in which leading figures from all three monotheistic religions write on such topics as the family in Islam, the Christian presence in Israel, teaching values, and so forth. Particular attention is paid to the theme of the dignity and role of women – a sensitive topic for some Islamic representatives. But the dialogue continues, leading to mutual understanding and not infrequently even to real friendships.

Only thanks to your generosity can the centre continue its precious work. Right now they are asking us for financial help. But they are sowing seeds of reconciliation in a region beset by violence and war.

Similarly in Nigeria, the Church is working tirelessly to promote reconciliation through interreligious dialogue. A precondition here is not only to know one’s own Christian faith but also Islamic beliefs. This is the purpose of the workshops for priests, seminarians, religious and catechists in the diocese of Osogbo in the southwest of the country.

The population here is approximately two thirds Muslim and the Islam-dominated state is putting pressure on other faiths. Compulsory measures like full body clothing for female pupils, even in the Catholic schools, make dialogue more difficult. Once again it is the Christians who are responding.

Workshops can help address these issues, and Father Akinkunmi sent us a detailed programme, which we plan to support with a contribution. ‘We religious leaders are called to work for peace’, said Pope Francis at the meeting in Rome. This can only happen, he said, ‘through dialogue and prayer. Both belong together, for dialogue has its roots in something beyond our own strength.’


This article can be found in Mirror 0517.


The Slave who enjoyed the Good Life

In Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI recalls the story of Josephine Bakhita, who endured more than her share of unjust calamities:

‘At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life. . . . 

[A]fter escaping the terrifying ‘masters’ who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of ‘master’—the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. 

What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her ‘at the Father’s right hand.’ Now she had ‘hope’—no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: ‘I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.’1

After being freed from slavery, she reached out to serve out of love rather than fear.

‘The liberation that she had received through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ,’ writes the pope, 

‘She felt she had to extend, it had to be handed on to others, to the greatest possible number of people. The hope born in her which had ‘redeemed’ her she could not keep to herself; this hope had to reach many, to reach everybody.’

Christopher Kaczor

 

Edited and adapted from ‘Man needs Hope to Live’ by Dr. Christopher Kaczor. https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/man-needs-hope-to-live dated 12 October 2011.
1 Spe Salvi,3.

 


This article can be found in Mirror 0417.


They are immensely Grateful - Interview

To find out about the work of ACN is supporting in Africa, we spoke to Christine du Coudray Wiehe, who heads the Africa Section of our pontifical charity.


How important is Africa to ACN?

For 13 years now the Church in Africa has been a top priority for our pontifical foundation, at least in terms of the volume of funding for the projects. When I first started here 25 years ago, the priority was still the persecuted Church behind the Iron Curtain, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall Africa increasingly began to claim our attention, particularly after the first continental synod, the Synod for Africa, which was called by Saint John Paul II in 1994. With the words ‘Christ is calling Africa’, the Pope drew our attention to a young Church, dynamic and rich in priestly and religious vocations, but poor in infrastructure and opportunities for formation, and additionally threatened by an aggressive Islam and a West-inspired ‘culture of death’, that is destructive especially towards the traditional family. So this is precisely the area to which our aid is directed.


Which kind of projects are your priority?

The Church on this continent has long survived, thanks in good measure to the material help of the missionaries, but for a variety of reasons this aid is no longer possible. In keeping with our mission and our pastoral outlook, more than anything else we focus on the formation of candidates for the priesthood, on supporting seminarians and providing scholarships, and also on the ongoing formation of priests, retreats and spiritual exercises, the support of religious Sisters. We also help with bicycles, motorcycles and cars for pastoral work, Bibles in the local languages, radio stations and religious programming, and for the construction of churches and chapels, convents and parish centres etc. Needless to say, we receive a huge number of requests for aid and have to be selective, according to the actual situation and need. For a time the priority was the former Marxist regimes such as Angola, Madagascar and Mozambique, at other times it has been the countries suffering civil war, such as Liberia, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or again the countries threatened by radical Islam, such as Nigeria, Mali and today even Kenya and Tanzania.


How is this aid received by the Christians in Africa?

They are immensely grateful to us, and to all our benefactors. It is so important to them to experience our solidarity, the sense of unity in Christ, the assurance that they are not alone in their need. During the second Africa Synod we organised a North-South meeting between the bishops of Europe and Africa. A hundred bishops took part and shared their problems and priorities. It was a worldwide first.


How important is the family in your aid for Africa?

Over the years we have often been approached by local family organisations of all shapes and sizes and in every corner of the continent. We not only help individually, but also via the overarching African Family Life Federation, thereby encouraging them all to work together. This is enormously important in an age of globalisation and massive anti-family campaigns such as the promotion of gender ideology. The Holy Father has repeatedly warned us about this ideology; many governments and organisations in the West have fallen for it and are now pressurising the African nations. Hence it is all the more necessary to defend and promote the true values of human nature and the expertise in this understanding that the Church has accumulated over the course of 2000 years as a rock and refuge for the family.


This article can be found in Mirror 0317.