THROUGH ITS 23 national offices, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) raised $125M in donations in 2018. The organization’s more than 330,000 donors enabled ACN to fund more than 5,000 pastoral projects to support the persecuted and suffering Church in 139 countries.
“We are deeply moved by the generosity of our donors all over the world,” said Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of ACN International, at the formal presentation of the ACN’s 2018 Annual Report in Rome June 20, 2019. He added: “Once again their sacrifices and their faith have moved mountains!”
As has been the case in recent years, a major proportion of these donations went to support projects in Africa (27 percent) and in the Middle East (25 percent). Since the beginning of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, ACN has given a total of $110M for projects in the Middle East, with more than $20M in funding in 2018 alone.
Emergency humanitarian aid for the many thousands of Christians impoverished by war and terror, Christian refugees and Christian Internally Displaced People accounted for 12 percent of the total in aid granted last year. Last year saw the continuation of the huge project of repairing and rebuilding the homes of Christians in Syria and Iraq that was made possible by the support of ACN. In 2018, more than 1,400 Christian homes were repaired or rebuilt.
Syria received the largest single amount of aid from ACN in 2018, $9.8M, an increase of $3.3M compared to 2017. Iraq came in second, with $7.4M in aid from ACN. Total aid given to projects in the Middle East in 2018 amounted to $7.4M. India received $5.9M, Ukraine $3.6M and the Democratic Republic of Congo $3.1M.
The bulk of projects funded by ACN in 2018—amounting to $26.4M or 32 percent of the total amount spent on projects ($86M)—involved construction and repair of 2,470 buildings, including private homes, chapels, churches, convents, seminaries and pastoral centres.
Mass offerings accounted for 16.4 percent of the projects funded. During 2018, this particular form of support—which is absolutely crucial in the poorest parts of the world where priests have virtually no other form of income or support—brought help to no fewer than 40,569 priests, or roughly one in every 10 priests worldwide. Last year, no fewer than 1,421,000 Masses were celebrated for the intentions of donors, or approx. one Mass every 22 seconds.
Emergency humanitarian aid and the formation of priests and religious each accounted for 12.4 percent of the project budget. Last year, ACN supported the formation of 11,817 seminarians, or approximately one in every 10 worldwide, in addition to supporting the ongoing studies of 4,370 priests. In addition to this, Mass stipends supported the life and work of 1,383 priests teaching in major seminaries. Also extremely important for ACN was the education of the laity, which accounted for 11.2 percent of spending. In 2018, ACN supported the formation of some 14,000 catechists and lay leaders.
Projects providing means of pastoral transportation took up 6.8 percent of the budget, in the form of 907 vehicles funded – 370 cars, 189 motorcycles, 342 bicycles, two trucks, two mini buses and two boats. Support for Catholic media and the publication of Bibles and other religious literature amounted to 4.6 percent of spending on projects. Including sacred texts and its own publications, ACN was able to fund the publication and distribution of some 1,103,484 pieces of literature.
Thanks to its faithful and generous donors, ACN is able to respond quickly to a multitude of crises confronting the Church around the world—major tragedies like the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka or killings of Christians in Nigeria or Pakistan, crimes that are barely reported on by major media. Through its projects, ACN donors convey to faithful of the suffering and persecuted Church around the world that they are not forgotten—that they are not alone. ACN does so by helping to rebuild damaged or destroyed churches, supporting the families of victims of terrorism, and helping priests and religious to continue in their pastoral mission—ultimately demonstrating that faith has the power to overcome hatred.