Whether media relations, global meetings, events, conferences or campaigns – ACN’s actions and public relations work in 2019 were once again highly diverse. Here we present some of the events organised by the ACN headquarters or some of its 23 national offices.
Papal blessing for ACN initiative
On 15 August, during the Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis blessed 6,000 rosaries as a gift to the faithful in Syria. “The rosaries, made at the initiative of ACN, are a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria,” said the Pope. Earlier he received a delegation from ACN and praised the work of our charity: “I thank ACN for everything you do. When we pray with the people in Syria, we come close to them.” On 15 September the Pope also blessed an icon with the motif of “Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians”.
Comfort for mourners in Syria
In 2019, ACN launched a campaign entitled “Comfort my People” to provide spiritual support to the bereaved families of war, murder and abduction victims. The project was organised and implemented together with the local Catholic and Orthodox Churches and was intended as a sign of brotherhood between the various Christian denominations. The relatives of the victims received a rosary blessed by the Pope, a Bible or a cross as a gift. In addition, the icon of “Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians”, also blessed by the Pope, was brought to Catholic and Orthodox parishes to give comfort to the faithful there. ACN called on believers around the world to be close to the mourners in Syria through prayer and solidarity.
“Night of the Witnesses”
For the eleventh time in 2019, ACN’s French national office organised the “Night of the Witnesses” (La Nuit des Témoins). The evening events are designed to commemorate the victims of religious persecution through prayers and the personal testimonies of those affected. The main event, which was repeated in other “Night of the Witnesses” French cities throughout the year, was held for what was foreseeable the last time in March 2019 in the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris, which was severely damaged in a fire only a few days later. Guests of honour in 2019 included Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country where violence has been rife for decades, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas from India, where fanatical Hindu extremists are increasingly attacking other religious communities, and Sister Mona Aldhem from Syria. Meanwhile, the “Night of the Witnesses” is also held in other countries where ACN is present, including in Germany, Spain and Italy.
As in previous years, churches, cathedrals and symbolic public buildings were again illuminated red in 2019 to commemorate the victims of religious persecution worldwide. This time the initiative launched by ACN took place in fifteen countries on four continents. The record was set in the Philippines where in addition to Manila Cathedral, 2,050 parish churches were illuminated in 68 dioceses. In the United Kingdom, 120 buildings were illuminated red. “Red Wednesday” was also celebrated in Washington, Prague, Lisbon, London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Rome, Vienna, Amsterdam, in several places in Canada and Australia, and for the first time ever in Budapest. The monuments and churches were bathed in deep red light, becoming a sign of solidarity for
persecuted Christians all over the world.
World Youth Day in Panama
The World Youth Day in Panama City in January 2019 was the major event of the year for more than 122,000 young people from 155 countries. The highlight of the event: The meeting of the faithful with Pope Francis in several worship services. ACN enabled youth from the Holy Land, Haiti, Malawi, Bangladesh, Egypt and Albania to participate in World Youth Day. Through a sum of 100,000 euros, we were also able to support the production of rosaries that were made by Christians in Bethlehem and distributed to World Youth Day participants at the request of the Pope. The prayer beads are much more than just an aid for pilgrims’ personal prayers, as two hundred Christian families in the Holy Land were also able to live on this major order for one year. Prisoners, refugees and the unemployed were also involved in the production of the rosaries and were able to benefit from the initiative.