Pope Francis, Pope Video March 2019

ACN supports the video of Pope Francis’s to pray for people who are persecuted for their faith

Rome/Königstein, 5 March 2019 – The March edition of the pope’s video is dedicated to the persecuted Christians who live in countries that do not guarantee religious freedom and human rights. The video is produced by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in collaboration with the international foundation ACN (Aid to the Church in Need).

To make the sign of the cross, read the Bible, go to church on Sundays, talk about Jesus, pray the rosary – for us, these are normal and everyday things. However, this is not the case in many parts of the world. Any one of these can lead to exclusion, imprisonment in a work camp or even death.

The year began with an attack carried out on Jojo Cathedral in the Philippines during Holy Mass; 23 people were killed. Forty missionaries were murdered worldwide in 2018, 35 of these were priests. Two of them were massacred in late November together with 80 believers in a refugee camp in Alindao in the Central African Republic.

One also should not forget Asia Bibi, the Pakistani mother who was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy and only released from prison after 9 years. It is estimated that more than 25 Christians are currently incarcerated on the same charges.

Also the Coptic Christians in Egypt are also under constant persecution. This calls to mind the pictures of the 21 Egyptians who were beheaded in 2015. In contrast, the murder of 33 Coptic pilgrims in 2017 and 2018 were virtually ignored.

There are thousands of cases of persecution and discrimination that go unnoticed because they are not reported by the media. In the video, Pope Francis commented, “We find it difficult to believe, but there are more martyrs today than there were in the early centuries,” because “they speak the truth and proclaim Jesus Christ,” even “in countries in which freedom and human rights are protected in theory, on paper.”

According to the Religious Freedom in the World Report of the Pontifical foundation ACN, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. This fundamental human right is severely threatened in 38 countries – 17 of which are even classified as countries in which persecution occurs.

“This prayer intention of the Holy Father is quite significant for the Christian community. Praying for our persecuted and discriminated brothers and sisters is one of the pillars of ACN. We support this prayer intention of the Holy Father with great joy and gratitude,” Thomas Heine-Geldern, ACN President, said.


Rebuilding Churches

Thanks to you, we help to build and repair churches in countries where the local Christian community simply cannot afford to fund the construction themselves. Whether it’s providing a tin roof for a makeshift Mass shelter, or supporting a landmark cathedral, it’s not just a church you are helping to build.

You are also building faith communities by providing the people with a place of worship and a visible symbol of faith. Some of these churches have been destroyed, burnt or desecrated, while others have fallen into disrepair after many years of use. Many are new places of worship in countries where the faith is growing rapidly and where previously the priest has celebrated Mass outside under a tree or in an area marked out by stones.

In 2016, your donations helped fund 1,222 construction projects which saw churches, chapels, cathedrals and seminaries being built. These constructions made up 30% of our overall projects for the year, with one third of these projects based in Africa.

Providing Child’s Bibles

With more than 50 million copies distributed in over 170 languages, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible is a worldwide phenomenon! This little illustrated bible not only teaches children key stories from the Old and New testaments, it also helps them learn to read, as it is often the only book they own. For many adults, too, the Child’s Bible is their first introduction to Scripture. The Child’s Bible was first published in 1979 – the United Nations Year of the Child – in response to a call from Pope John Paul II to bring the Word of God to the weakest in our world – children “so poor that they cannot afford any book”.

As well as proclaiming the Word of God to children and young people, ‘God speaks to his children’ is a vital tool for families to develop their faith. Catechists also use the Child’s Bible to help the faithful deepen their understanding of Christianity. Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible has also been given out to people in hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes and prisons, military chaplaincies and even to crew on merchant sea vessels. It helps bring spiritual comfort to those enduring their own Way of the Cross.


Transport for Priests and Sisters

In many of the countries where we work, priests, Sisters and catechists have to travel great distances to serve Christian communities scattered over hundreds of miles. These servants of God are willing to undertake exhausting and sometimes perilous journeys across difficult terrain to bring the sacraments, pastoral teaching, schooling and health care to the faithful. Without these visits God’s Word would rarely reach many cut-off Catholics.

That is why Aid to the Church in Need provides essential and effective transport including four-wheel-drive vehicles, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, outboard motors for boats and even donkeys – whatever is most appropriate to the terrain. Helping a priest or Sister reach their far-flung Christian communities can cost as little as €60 for a bicycle, €900 for a motorbike, or €6,000 for a car capable of taking on the tough terrain. You can find out more about our transport projects below.

In 2016, your donations supported the supply of transport for pastoral ministry throughout Africa and Asia, amounting to 7.3% of the year’s projects. This included 375 cars, 149 motorcycles, 239 bicycles and two riverboats.

Mass Stipends and Subsistence Aid

A priest distributes Holy Communion during outdoor Mass at the ‘Green Cathedral’ in Yambio, South Sudan. Many priests and Sisters around the world rely on the generosity of benefactors to provide for their basic needs, such as food and clothes, as they minister to their flocks. In the case of priests, we are able to pass on your Mass stipends so that they may have a small income.

They in turn celebrate Holy Mass for the intentions of the benefactor. We also make grants to priests and Sisters to help with subsistence. And we even support innovative income-generation projects, such as rearing pigs or chickens, which can be sold.

In 2016, Mass offerings made up 14.8% of our total projects with 1,435,888 Masses being offered for our benefactors. Your donation helped one priest in every nine with Mass offerings, especially 14,403 in Africa and 11,293 in Asia with the rest  throughout the world, giving 43,027 priests in total. Every 22 seconds Holy Mass was celebrated somewhere in the world for the intentions of our benefactors.

Spreading the Faith

For millions of Christians living in some of the most inaccessible parts of the world, the Word of God reaches them over the airwaves, on television, in print and on the Internet far more easily than a priest or Sister can visit. Supporting media projects to spread the Word of God is a key priority for Aid to the Church in Need – at the specific request of Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI, who said: “The Church urgently needs people through whom God can be made increasingly present in the media, so that his message of salvation can reach the ends of the earth.”

Whether it is supporting radio stations in Sudan, Asia or Ukraine, helping fund TV stations in Russia or the Middle East, supporting online news agencies like Zenit, a leading provider of Catholic news in English and Arabic, or even making television series about the persecuted Church in partnership with the Catholic Radio and Television Network, we are – thanks to you – taking up the challenge of spreading God’s message to even the most remote corners of the world.

Renewing the Faith

To invigorate the efforts of all Catholics in passing on the Faith and to arouse in them a spirit of generous sacrifice on behalf of their persecuted and suffering sisters and brothers.

Defend the persecuted Church

Our foremost task is to stand by those who suffer violence and repression for the sake of their Catholic faith. No viable and appropriate request of a persecuted Church should go unanswered.

Strengthen the oppressed Church

Wherever the Church suffers the effects of violent oppression or is hindered in the exercise of Her ministry by extreme poverty, we help in Her mission of proclaiming the Faith.

Refresh the Church in “donor countries”

By venerating the testimonies of modern Martyrs and by promoting a spirit of Christian solidarity with the suffering Church, we hope to inspire and encourage existing and potential benefactors to participate more actively in the life of their local Church.

Win new benefactors

To achieve these goals, we constantly strive to enlarge our family of benefactors.

Distributing emergency aid

In times of disaster and great need, we are able to send aid quickly and directly to those most in need, thanks to our close relationships with local Church leaders. Although the emphasis of Aid to the Church in Need’s work is on pastoral projects, we recognise the imperative need to offer help to those in crisis – indeed, the charity was born out of the refugee crisis in Europe at the end of World War II.

Refugees are still the recipients of emergency help today. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, we have offered more than €920,000 of aid, providing shelter, blankets, medicine and food essentials both to those still in Syria and to the tens of thousands who have left everything behind and fled to neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan. Many of these refugees have fled violence before, having left Iraq for the shelter of Syria before civil war broke out. Our support also includes help for vital pastoral projects in Syria. In recent years, we have also helped victims of natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan, amongst others.

In 2016, 18.6% of our overall projects were in the area of refugee and emergency aid.

Teaching the Faith

Aid to the Church in Need is at work in more than 140 countries, helping Christians who are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.

Thanks to you, we are able to support more than 5,000 projects every year, helping the Church’s mission. From training seminarians for the priesthood to providing transport to help priests and Sisters reach the remotest communities, or building much-needed chapels, you are helping us to bring Christ to the faithful around the world.

In 2016, your donations meant that you were supporting 11,080 Religious Sisters and 10,760 seminarians in their training. That means one sister in every 62 and one seminarian in every 11, with 4,667 being in Africa, 2,900 in Latin America and 1,577 in Eastern Europe leading to 10.9% of our projects.