ACN sees increase in giving

The UK director of a leading Catholic charity has thanked benefactors for keeping up their support for persecuted Christians through the economic downturn.

Income received by Aid to the Church in Need (UK) went up from £6.7 million in 2010 to £7.3 million in 2011, making it a record year for the charity in this country.

Newly-released figures rank ACN UK third in income received by the charity’s 17 national offices around the world.

More than £1 million of this amount was given by benefactors in Scotland.

Taken as a whole, ACN income internationally fell slightly from €86.9 million (£69.7m) in 2010 to €82.0 million (£65.77m) the following year.

Increased income, especially in Germany, Brazil, Poland as well as the UK, was slightly outweighed by falling donations, notably in Australia, France, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Spain.

In 2011, ACN internationally supported a total of 4,634 projects spread across 145 countries from Albania through to Zimbabwe, but prioritising aid for the Middle East and Africa, supporting pastoral projects.

These include printing and distributing ACN’s Child’s Bibles and other Christian education materials, Catholic media work including radio stations, newspapers, web and other online initiatives, Mass stipends for poor and persecuted priests, building churches, vehicles including cars and bicycles needed for pastoral work, training seminarians and emergency help for Christian refugees.

The figures were released on Monday by ACN’s international headquarters near Frankfurt, Germany.

ACN UK director Neville Kyrke-Smith said: “People might be financially hard-up but the spiritual wealth of our benefactors – inspired by their faith – has helped to support the faith in places where there is persecution and great suffering.”

Mr Kyrke-Smith, who has recently returned from an ACN fact-finding and project assessment trip in Lebanon, where he travelled close to the border with Syria, said: “It is of paramount importance to stand by Christians in the Middle East, supporting them in solidarity and faith at this difficult time.”

He went on: “The bishops, priests, Sisters and seminarians that we met pleaded for ACN’s support so that they can witness to Christ’s hope, particularly during this period of real tension and difficulty for so many Christians.”

Mr Kyrke-Smith stressed the charity’s disappointment when having to turn down applications for aid because of shortage of funds.

ACN’s Executive President, Johannes Freiherr Heereman von Zuydtwyck, based at ACN International in Germany, stressed the importance of ACN’s recent ecclesiastical status upgrade to a Pontifical Foundation, reporting directly to the Pope.

“We are extremely grateful to ACN’s benefactors,” he said, adding that ACN’s new status meant that “organisational structures have been created to enable aid to be given even more quickly and effectively in the future”.