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.