Aid to the Church in Need Holding a Summit in Rome

Official Says Group Is on Good Terms with Russian Orthodox

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ROME, SEPT. 25, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A cardinal encouraged Aid to the Church in Need to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world, despite the lack of resources.



"The Lord promised us that we will not lack our daily bread," Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, told the group, which specializes in assisting Christian communities in dire straits.

His comment came during an address to the directors of the 16 national sections and ecclesiastical assistants of this ecclesial association, who are meeting this week in Rome.

Father Werenfried van Straaten, the 89-year-old founder of this institution, is attending the meeting.

Aid to the Church in Need, which relies on private donations, collected about 800 million euro ($784 million) last year, and invested them in 6,700 projects in 134 countries.

"We pay special attention to former Communist countries: formation of religious; construction of seminaries, churches, and parish houses; support of Catholic media; publishing of the Bible," secretary-general Antonia Willemsen explained, in statements published by the Italian bishops' conference.

"In Russia, we have good relations with many Orthodox bishops and with Metropolitan Kirill of the Moscow Patriarchate," she added.

"The Orthodox Church is not a monolith," Willemsen said. "The presence of different sensibilities and perspectives allows for the establishment of relations of understanding, dialogue and collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox."

"Our objective is reconciliation; this is why we also support the formation of some Orthodox priests and the construction of places of worship, as well as two 'ecumenical projects': a radio and the creation of a library managed by Catholics and Orthodox," she explained.

Herbert Rechberger, director of the Austrian section, which has 45,000 benefactors, believes it is urgent to sensitize the young generations, who seem more willing to support "initiatives of a social nature and not pastoral activities."

Marie-Claude Lalonde, responsible for the Canadian section, acknowledged the difficulty in involving young people. Yet she said: "The ease with which we can live and express our faith helps us realize the suffering and oppression endured by so many Catholics in the world."

Aid to the Church in Need in Canada, which has 15,000 benefactors, is contributing to the reconstruction of two churches destroyed in Cuba and to the financial support of Havana's seminary.