$140M in aid for persecuted, suffering Christians

One in every three dioceses in the world benefitted from ACN assistance, as did one in every eight priests

IN 2021, THE INTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC PASTORAL CHARITY AND PONTIFICAL FOUNDATION AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED (ACN International) received over $140M in donations (2020: $130M) to support persecuted and suffering Christians around the world.

ACN annual figures were approved by its Supervisory Board June 15 in Rome. “In 2021, the generosity of our benefactors in more than 23 countries, made it possible for ACN to support programs totaling $112M. We can only thank them on behalf of our suffering brothers and sisters for this exceptional support during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are confident that God will richly reward them for their help,” said ACN Executive President Thomas Heine-Geldern.

Of the $112M, $98.3M (87 percent) funded 5298 projects in 132 countries around the world in which the Church suffers from persecution or extreme poverty. A further $13.9M (12 percent) was used to fulfil ACN’s information, advocacy, and prayer mission, for example during the annual “Red Week for Persecuted Christians” or the production and distribution of the 2021“Religious Freedom Report.” Additionally, a surplus of 4.6 million EUR was earmarked for project work in the year 2022.

From the total of $136M expended, $9M (6.7 percent) was dedicated to administration and $14.8M (10,9%) to donor relations and fundraising.

As usual, in 2021 donations to ACN came exclusively from private individuals, as ACN does not accept public subsidies.

The devastating effects of the pandemic in many developing countries demanded a robust response from ACN, with COVID-related projects accounting $10.2M of the 2021 budget. India, which was particularly badly hit by the virus, tops the list in terms of total amount of funding projects, with over $12.7M. The Asian state is followed by Ukraine, Lebanon, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In terms of regions, Africa stands out, having received 30.7 percent of the project aid, with Asia and Oceania placing second (22.3 percent). In the Middle East (16.9 percent) ACN continued its commitment especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq where the organization invested in projects aimed at helping the Christians stay in their ancestral lands despite persecution, war, and economic crises.

Carmeliste Sisters in Burundi

In line with ACN’s pastoral mission, the funding includes the formation of priests and religious, means of transportation, for example 4×4 cars or boats to reach remote parishes, and the construction and renovation of churches. In 2021, ACN supported the acquisition of 1338 vehicles and contributed to the building of 307 churches, 157 monasteries and novitiates, 295 pastoral centers and 52 seminaries.

Another significant means of support is the distribution of financial aid to priests serving in poor communities. A total of 52,879 priests, in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, received support in the form of Mass stipends. These numbers mean that approximately one in every eight priests in the world benefitted from this aid, but also that every 15 seconds a Mass is celebrated somewhere in the world for the intentions of ACN donors who make this work possible

Formation is a cornerstone of the charity’s support. In 2021 ACN funded the training of 13,381 seminarians, which is around one in every eight in the world. Since 2004 it has supported 237,353 seminarians.

In 2021 ACN ran projects in a total of 1181 dioceses. Considering that the Church comprises 3026 ecclesiastical territories, this means that ACN directly aided one in every three Catholic dioceses in the world.

“From Albania to Zimbabwe, ACN continues to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of Christians all over the world. These communities are a source of inspiration for us, in the way they live their faith, despite the poverty, difficulties and often the outright persecution they suffer. Thanks to the enormous generosity and help of our benefactors, we can support and sustain them materially,” said Thomas Heine-Geldern.

“In our work last year, we were profoundly conscious of the workings of divine providence which, in the midst of growing global uncertainty, opened the hearts of our benefactors ever wider.”

“In 2021, as in previous years, Ukraine was one of the countries that benefitted most from ACN funding. The fact that we had so many projects and partners on the ground left us in a good position to respond immediately with aid in 2022, when the war started. ACN will continue to work, wherever it can, to help Christians who need assistance, so long as our benefactors continue to trust us with their donations and support,” he added.

Aid to the Church in Need was founded in the wake of World War II to help Christian refugees from Eastern Europe. It now has offices in 23 countries and serves persecuted and other suffering Christians around the world.