100th anniversary of the birth of Pope Saint John Paul II – ACN remains faithful to his legacy to this day.

Pope John Paul II made history during his lifetime and became one of the giants of the 20th century – both in the history of the Church and of the wider world. In his early years he was a media star, and in the subsequent and final years a veritable martyr, when it became clear that he would defend the truth without compromise, yet with love. Likewise unwavering, profoundly committed and historic in their dimensions were the projects he promoted and which on so many occasions the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) has made its own.

“Pope John Paul II is a friend of our charity”, wrote Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN. “We know him as a man of great courage, unwavering in his faith and with a filial love for the Virgin Mary. God willing, under his guidance may the resurrection of the Lord become a resurrection of the Church.” The 18th of May this year will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. Today ACN continues to commend its activities to the intercession of Saint John Paul II.

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Pope John Paul II. with Fr. Werenfried, June 1985
Photo credit: LIDO SANTONI (Italy/Rome).

Ricardo’s dream - The church in Havana, dedicated to Saint John Paul II, is now in its final phase

As Ricardo Mínguez speaks, his eyes start to fill with tears as he recalls the hardships and sufferings they have been through in the past. They have been waiting for over 25 years for this, and many of those who embarked on this venture “have left the country or are already no longer with us”, says this elderly Cuban gentleman, marked by the years and the wrinkles on his face that speak of a lifetime filled with sufferings. Ricardo is speaking about the Catholic community in the suburb of Antonio Guiteras, a community of around one hundred individuals that was first formed in 1993 in the back yard of a private home in this suburb on the outskirts of Havana, one of the most rapidly growing suburbs since the Cuban revolution and which today numbers around 30,000 inhabitants.

Conquered hate with love: 70 years of the “Miracle of Vinkt”

On 27 May 1940, the village of Vinkt, located near the Belgian city of Ghent, was the scene of one of the great crimes committed on the Western front during World War II. Eighty-six civilians were executed during a massacre carried out by German troops. Dutch Premonstratensian Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, recognised the dangers of a Europe divided by hate and dedicated his life to restoring love. Also in Vinkt, where ten years after the disastrous events, something worth remembering happened.

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 Father Werenfried during one of his homilies. Historical picture. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

World War II had come to an end. As agreed upon by the victorious powers at the Yalta Conference and in the Potsdam Agreement, fourteen million Germans were driven out of the eastern provinces beginning in 1945. In western Germany, the majority of the displaced persons, among them six million Catholics, lived under inhumane conditions in bunkers or camps. The suffering of the millions of displaced persons reminded Father Werenfried van Straaten, a Premonstratensian priest born in 1913 in Mijdrecht in the Netherlands, of the story of the Nativity, when there was no room at the inn for the Holy Family because “their people” had no love.

Congo-Brazzaville: the Pygmies, already under threat, fear the arrival of Covid-19

The news came through on 14 March 2020 – the first known case of infection with Covid-19 had been detected in Brazzaville. In response, the Congolese government had imposed a general lockdown on the entire population.

“We are extremely concerned for the Pygmy population and for ourselves also”, says Father Franck Bango, the parish priest of Péké, in the diocese of Ouesso in the north of the Republic of Congo. “Some relief measures have been announced by the government – such as free electricity and water – but they will have absolutely no impact on them, since they are altogether remote from their world. The pygmies will end up dying, not from the disease, but from hunger. For the pygmies don’t really yet have the habit of saving for tomorrow. They have to be able to work on a daily basis in order to be able to eat”, Father Bango explains. He himself is the parish priest of the first-ever Pygmy parish in the country.

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Mass of the Pygmies - Closing of the year 2017. Photographer: Emmanuelle Kaeser. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need

Pakistan: Christians denied COVID-19 aid

Pleas to Government to give domestic and sanitary workers gloves and masks 
by John Pontifex.

NGOs and Muslim leaders in Pakistan stand accused of refusing to give COVID-19 emergency aid to Christians and other religious minorities – even though they are among those worst affected by the pandemic.

Cecil Shane Chaudhry, Executive Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a Catholic-run human rights organisation, described reports of religious organisations and mosques making announcements telling Christians not to come forward for food and other emergency handouts. 

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Christians living in '7 lanes' district of Gulshan Iqbal Town, a slum area of Pakistan, came under fire from Muslim extremists (Taliban) and were displaced to this neighbourhood from the tribal area bordering Pakistan. The Christian community erected walls blocking the seven lanes for security after a spate of killings and other violence. Photographer: John Pontifex. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

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