At ACN, a changing of the guard
Starting June 14, 2023, the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will be led by Regina Lynch, a long-serving project director for the charity. She takes over the role of executive director from Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern and will hold that role for the next five years. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza remains president of the foundation, and Philipp Ozores has been confirmed as general secretary.
In mid-April, Father Anton Lässer, CP, was appointed as the new Ecclesiastical Assistant of ACN International. He replaces Father Martin Barta Opus, J.S.S., who, after 13 years, is taking on a new role within his Order.
The new Executive President Regina Lynch, 66, hails from Northern Ireland. A literary scholar, she has worked at the international headquarters of ACN in Königstein im Taunus, Germany, since 1980; in 2008, she took over the role of project director and became annually responsible for 6,000 of ACN’s projects in more than 140 countries. In more than 40 years, she has made numerous trips to beneficiary countries and nurtured relationships with project partners, branches of the Church, and other charities.
In her new role, Lynch is responsible for the basic content and statutory leadership of the international foundation, with its 23 national offices. She represents ACN externally and is supported in her duties by the Administrative Council and the General Secretariat. As executive president, she reports to the Supervisory Board under the chairmanship of Cardinal Mauro Piacenza.
In 2021, she received a special appreciation of her work: as representative of ROACO (a combination of agencies serving the oriental Churches), she was able to accompany Pope Francis on his March 2021 trip to Iraq, where ACN has given significant support to Christians returning to the Nineveh Plains after being driven out by ISIS.
In April 2023, she handed over the leadership of the project department to her successor, Marco Mencaglia. A political scientist born in Rome, he has been active in the department since 2014; he was initially responsible for several Latin American countries and then for the whole of Europe.
“In an ideal world, there should be no need for a charity like ACN, but sadly, our service to the suffering and persecuted Christians around the world is as necessary as ever,” said Ms. Lynch. “I feel both humbled and privileged to take on the role of executive president of our papal Foundation for the next five years, and with God’s help and the prayers of our benefactors, I will do my utmost to ensure that ACN remains faithful to its mission.”
The new Ecclesiastical Assistant, Father Anton Lässer, CP, comes from Austria. He initially studied business management and worked as a management consultant. After theological studies, he was ordained a priest in 1999; in 2007, he joined the Passionist Order (CP). As International Ecclesiastical Assistant, he has the responsibility – along with the Ecclesiastical Assistants of the 23 national offices – for the spiritual life of ACN.
“With the new executive president, the new ecclesiastical assistant and the confirmed general secretary, ACN is excellently established, both organizationally and spiritually,” said Heine-Geldern, the departing executive president. “Regina Lynch knows and loves ACN. She enjoys the highest recognition inside and outside of the foundation. And she is a guarantor that ACN will continue to develop in the fulfilment of its mission.”
Heine-Geldern, who became executive president in 2018, led ACN through the growing persecution of Christians across the world and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May 2019, he received the Path to Peace Award from the Holy See’s representative at the United Nations for being a “leading mouthpiece for persecuted Christians.”
Pope Francis has received Heine-Geldern many times and repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the work of ACN. On August 15, 2019, the Pope blessed 6,000 rosaries, which were distributed to the surviving relatives of war victims in Syria.
Since March 2022, ACN has strengthened its support for the war-torn Catholic Church in Ukraine.
Founded in 1947, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer, and action, wherever they are persecuted or lacking in money for pastoral care. The organization is entirely supported by private donors and does not accept public funding.