Aid to the Church
in Need started in 1947 as “Ostpriesterhilfe” in
Tongerlo Abbey, Belgium, when the founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten,
launched an aid initiative to help the 14 million people expelled
from East Germany and at the same time made an appeal for reconciliation
with the “enemies of yesterday”.
In no time the movement changed scope to encompass the oppressed Church
behind the Iron Curtain. It also diversified its activities to help
seminarians, create chapels on wheels, rebuild churches and build
houses for the needy. In 1956, the foundation of a national office
in Königstein, Germany, was soon followed by another one in Austria.
From this point, the charity moved on to the refugees in Asia, to
South America and to the Eastern-rite Catholic Church of Ukraine.
In 1964, the charity was taken over by the Holy See and its international
head office moved to Rome. In 1969, the present name of Aid to the
Church in Need was adopted. In 1975, while remaining under direct
Papal authority, the head office or International Secretariat settled
in Königstein, Germany.
Growth continued with the creation of national offices in many Western
countries. In 1984, the charity was established as a “Universal
Public Association under Papal Jurisdiction”. In early 2012, the charity has been elevated to the status of a pontifical Foundation. It
consists of 17 national offices in as many countries, including Canada.
With the downfall of communist systems in Eastern and Central Europe,
support was initiated to the Eastern-rite Catholic and Russian Orthodox
Churches that had long survived underground. In 1992, a wide-ranging
new aid program was launched for the re-evangelization of Eastern
Europe and the countries of the new Russian Federation.
Aid to the Church in Need has now celebrated its Golden Jubilee, but
it keeps growing. In recent years, it has distributed an average of
US$70 million to distressed local churches, and its balance sheet
totals more than US$3 billion. The founder, who died very recently,
contributed as much as his declining health allowed him till his very
last days. He also thanked the Lord every day for this phenomenal
success: “By human standards, this work is a mystery!” he once said.
To go into more detail on ACN’s history, please consult ACN International’s Web site.
II, Patriarch of Moscow, and Fr Werenfried
of ACNs most overwhelming success stories: the Bible for