Mr. Hans-Peter Röthlin, the President of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), spoke yesterday in Rome about the recent papal Lenten message saying that, the Pope’s central point is that “the mystery of almsgiving is love.”
In his address Mr. Röthlin spoke about the life and work of the founder of ACN, the late Father Werenfried van Straaten, who died in 2003 and who was known to millions by the nickname of the "Bacon Priest".
During his lifetime, said Mr. Röthlin, Father Werenfried had been described as "the greatest beggar in the Church's history". He had hastened through the world in order "to dry the tears of God, wherever He weeps", and to "bear witness to the sufferings of the children of God". In the Western world above all, he had sought to "reawaken the conscience of the people", Mr. Röthlin continued. Almost his sole method had been preaching, whereby he had told his own story which was "a synonym for the history of his charity", Mr. Rudkin added.
The president of ACN underlined the fact that the Holy Father had said in his Lenten message that everything must tend "not to our own honour, but to the honour of God". Father Werenfried also emphasized this point by reminding people of the poor widow in the Gospels, and in his Spiritual Guidelines admonished those who give away donations that "they must never forget that they are administering not only the money but above all the love of our benefactors".
Mr. Röthlin stressed that in speaking of administering love along with money, Fr. Werenfried had hit on the "central point" of the papal message, namely that the mystery of almsgiving is love.
Turning to the fourth point in the papal message, which speaks of the joy in giving, Mr. Röthlin said that it had made him think of just how many people had gone away from Father Werenfried and from ACN with "their eyes full of happiness and joy" after having "emptied the entire contents of their wallets". The president of ACN recalled how Father Werenfried, after having preached during Holy Mass in the churches, would stand at the door with his legendary hat in his hand. People had "rushed up to him with banknotes in their hands, and had often striven to be the first in this contest of love".
Mr. Röthlin explained that while ACN has only now begun to write Father Werenfried's history, …they can confirm already that “this story is a story of love, love that has not diminished with the death of our founder".
Mr. Röthlin concluded his address by outlining the essence of ACN today. He did so with a quotation from Father Werenfried himself: "Our charity is a meeting place of the Universal Church, where God's children from every nation on earth meet together in supernatural love and mutually enrich one another."
The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, which has its headquarters in the town of Königstein, near Frankfurt in Germany, is a charity of pontifical right, and therefore directly answerable to the Holy See. It has national offices in 17 countries -- in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and Latin America -- and supports over 5,000 pastoral projects annually in some 140 countries around the world. The charity was founded in 1947 by the Dutch Norbertine priest and religious, Father Werenfried van Straaten and helps the Catholic Church wherever she faces persecution or discrimination or is too poor to fulfill her pastoral and social mission.