Our Founder - Fr Werenfried van Straaten
The roots of Aid to the Church in Need go back to the time after World War II. As Europe lay shattered, millions of people were fleeing, the majority were homeless and tormented by hunger. This also affected the East German expellees.
For the Dutch Father Werenfried van Straaten, the Stunde Null was not only a new starting point but also the hour of birth of his life's work. In 1947 he founded Aid to the Eastern Priests, which shortly after would become the aid organisation, Aid to the Church in Need. His relief organisation provided food and clothes for millions of Eastern German Refugees, and stood by their side with pastoral care in these difficult times. Actually this was almost an inseparable task. Above all, when considering that in Belgium and the Netherlands he was asking for donations to the victims of the German occupation.
In his passionate appeals he preached compassion and reconciliation, and eventually he managed to trigger a wave of helpfulness. Since the majority had no money, they donated goods - particularly sides of pork - so from then on, he was known as the 'Bacon Priest'.
Charity as faith lived in practice
Under Father Werenfried's leadership, the Catholic aid organisation, Aid to the Church in Need got off the ground original aid projects time and time again. So-called rucksack priests were sent on bicycles and Volkswagen 'Beetles' to remote provinces, and so were Chapel Trucks as mobile churches for the expellees.
When the Cold War begain in 1950s, Aid to the Church in Need started its unparalleled action for the persecuted Catholic and Orthodox Church in the countries behind the Iron Curtain. In the 1960s, the relief programs were also expanded to Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Thanks to hundreds of thousands of faithful, who donate to Aid to the Church in Need, we carry out our work nowadays with an annual donation volume of more than 100 Million Euro. A success history, that once again proves that 'love for your neighbour' is not an empty biblical phrase but faith lived in practice.