111,100,000 Euros for the suffering, oppressed and persecuted Church throughout the world. This was the total raised in donations during 2018 by ACN International via its 23 national offices around the world and its international headquarters in Germany.
The resources raised, thanks to the generous donations of its more than 330,000 private benefactors around the world, have enabled the charity to fund no fewer than 5,019 pastoral projects in some 139 different countries.
“We are deeply moved by the generosity of our benefactors all over the world”, commented Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of ACN International, at the formal presentation of the charity’s Annual Report. “Once again their sacrifices and their faith have moved mountains!”
As in recent years, a major proportion of these donations went to support projects in Africa (27%) and in the Middle East (25%). In the last few years the region of the Middle East has witnessed a substantial increase in aid from ACN. Since the beginning of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, in fact, the Pontifical Foundation ACN has given a total of 99 million Euros, of which over 18 million were in 2018 alone. The charity’s emergency support for the thousands of uprooted Christian refugees in this region above all accounted for over 12% of the total aid granted last year. What should be underlined as particularly significant in this respect was the huge project of rebuilding the houses and homes of the Christian refugees in Syria and Iraq that was made possible by the support of ACN International. In fact no fewer than 1,479 Christian homes were rebuilt in these areas of the Middle East, thanks to the involvement of the foundation.
Not surprisingly, the country which saw the largest single amount of aid from ACN during 2018 was also in the Middle East, namely Syria, where the support given by the charity totalled a full 8.6 million Euros, 2.9 million more than given by ACN in 2017. And in second place in terms of the aid given was Iraq, also in the Middle East, where last year ACN funded projects to a total value of some 6.5 million Euros. These two countries were followed by India (5.2m), Ukraine (3.2m) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2.8m).
In terms of the types of project supported, as in recent years, the first place was that of construction or reconstruction, with over 23.2 million Euros (31.9% of the total) attributed for 2,470 buildings, including private homes, chapels, churches, convents, seminaries and pastoral centres.
In second place were Mass Offerings (16.4%). During 2018 this particular form of support – absolutely crucial in the poorest parts of the world where priests have virtually no other form of support – brought help to no fewer than 40,569 priests, or roughly one in every 10 worldwide. In this way, last year, no fewer than 1,421,001 Holy Masses were celebrated for the intentions of the benefactors, or approximately one Holy Mass every 22 seconds.
Tied in third place in terms of the types of aid given were emergency aid projects and those providing support for the formation of priests and religious (12.4%). During 2018 ACN supported the formation of 11,817 seminarians, or approximately one in every 10 worldwide, in addition to the ongoing studies of 4,370 priests. In addition to this, the Mass Offerings given were able to support the life and work of 1,383 priests teaching in the major seminaries.
Also extremely important for ACN was the education of the lay faithful, which took fifth place in terms of the percentage (11.2%) of the total aid given. In this way the charity was able to support the formation of some 14,169 catechists and lay leaders last year.
In sixth place was the aid given for the means of pastoral transport (6.8%), with a total of 907 vehicles funded – 370 cars, 189 motorcycles, 342 bicycles, two trucks, two coaches and two boats. This was followed by support for the Catholic media and the publication of Bibles and other religious literature (4.6%). Including sacred texts and its own publications, the Foundation ACN was able to fund the publication and dissemination of some 1,103,484 volumes.
These figures illustrate a fundamental reality of ACN’s support for the Church throughout the world. It is a support given also and above all in a spirit of closeness to the oppressed and persecuted Church and with the capacity to react promptly and in practical terms to the attacks to which the Christian communities are ever-increasingly subject around the world. In the event of such tragic attacks as the recent bomb outrages in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, or the frequent attacks in countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria, ACN has always been able to react promptly and appropriately to help the wounded communities get back on their feet again and reaffirm their presence, even and especially in those countries where Christians are a small and oppressed minority. It does so by helping to rebuild their damaged churches, supporting the families of the victims and helping the priests and religious to continue in their pastoral mission. And thereby, ultimately, demonstrating that faith has the power to overcome hatred.