Pope declares Aid to Church in Need a pontifical foundation

Pope Benedict XVI elevated Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need to the status of a pontifical foundation, emphasizing its decades of service.

“ACN will continue as before, in a spirit of active charity to help wherever the Church faces hardship or persecution,” the organization said Dec. 6.

“As a pastoral charity, acting in the name of the Church, it is committed to strengthening and deepening Catholic faith and moral life.”

The change in the Germany-based organization’s status means it is now under the umbrella of the Vatican.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, was assigned by the Pope to be the foundation’s new president.

Cardinal Mauro has nominated Baron Johannes Heereman von Zuydtwyck as executive president effective Dec. 1. Baron Heereman previously served as secretary general and executive president of the Knights of Malta in Germany.

The new ecclesiastical assistant of the charity is Fr. Martin Barta, a member of the clerical association “Work of Jesus High Priest.”

The international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need will remain in Königstein near Frankfurt, Germany.

After World War II, Pope Pius XII appealed for help for the 14 million postwar refugees in Germany. He inspired the Norbertine priest Werenfried van Straaten to work for reconciliation through charitable deeds.

The priest’s organization grew into Aid to the Church in Need, which now has 600,000 friends and benefactors supporting about 5,000 aid projects every year in over 140 different countries.

The charity has 17 national offices around the world. Its 2010 donations totaled over $100 million.

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