The pandemic in 2021 has again severely affected Russia. This meant that 2021 was a difficult year with great challenges – also for the numerically small local Catholic Church, which we continue strongly to support. For 30 years, ACN has also been committed to dialogue with the Orthodox Church in Russia. Saint John Paul II entrusted this commitment to ACN in 1992. Despite the war in Ukraine, we hope to continue the dialogue between the two Churches.
ACN’s first priority is to help the Catholic Church, which forms a small minority in Russia and is dependent on help from abroad. One challenge here is that the faithful are spread over a huge area. The Diocese of St. Joseph alone, with its base in Irkutsk, is larger than the USA with an area spread over 10 million square kilometres. In order to care for the widely scattered faithful, priests and religious sisters need our support. In 2021 we were once again able to provide vehicles, building and renovation aid. We also supported the training of priests, religious and lay people and to assist priests with Mass stipends.
ACN supports Russia’s only Catholic seminary in Saint Petersburg. The seminary trains aspiring local priests and has become an important platform for exchanging experience, as well as cooperation between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
»Success is when dialogue leads to concrete assistance.«
The historic meeting between Pope Francis and the Moscow Patriarch in 2016 gave further impetus to ACN’s commitment. An ecumenical working group initiated by us then translated important topics from the joint declaration of the Church leaders into concrete projects. These include, for example, aid projects for Christians in the Middle East and improving pastoral care and guidance for the psychologically ill, mothers in critical situations and addicts, as well as hospice work with terminally ill children.
The Churches in Russia help drug addicts
The Orthodox priest Sergij Belkov is a “pioneer” of Church aid for drug addicts in Russia. In 1996, he founded a rehabilitation centre in Sapjornoe that also recognises people in their spiritual dimension. ACN has supported this project from the very start. Through prayer, work, a family community and pastoral support, most young people succeed in overcoming their addictions and no longer relapse. As the number of people seeking help increases, ACN 2021 has supported the expansion of the centre.