By John Newton
A MILESTONE in making the Scriptures available to young believers has been reached – as a Catholic charity published the 50 millionth copy of its Child’s Bible.
Aid to the Church in Need announced yesterday (Thursday, 28th June) that, since it started the initiative in 1979, it has printed 50 million copies of its biblical text, “God Speaks to His Children”.
The book, available in 172 languages, is widely used in areas of primary evangelisation and in some places is the first book, or one of only a handful of books, published in the language.
Maria Zurowski, head of family pastoral work at ACN, said: “For millions, the Child’s Bible is so precious because it is written in their native language, in which the readers learned to pray.
“For thousands, the Child’s Bible is the first book they have ever held in their hands.
“Sometimes, this little Bible is the only book a family owns.”
The 50 millionth Child’s Bible was published in the Umbundu language, which is spoken in Angola, south-west Africa.
Umbundu is used by members of the Ovimbundu ethnic group who live in central Angola and the coastal strip just west of the highlands.
Mrs Zurowski said that it was very important for the charity to support the Church in Angola, which was still recovering from a civil war that only ended in 2002.
The Child’s Bible is widely used as a basis for religious instruction in many countries and in some places is used to help children – and even adults – learn to read.
In 2012 more than a million copies of the book are expected to be printed in 23 languages including, for the first time, Kikuyu, Luo, and Pokot – which are three of the more than 50 regional languages that coexist in Kenya, alongside official languages, Swahili and English.
Mrs Zurowski said: “A bishop in Kenya told me that it is really important to have a Bible in the local languages – he said these are the languages that the people weep and pray in.”
The Child’s Bible contains key stories and texts from the Holy Scriptures written in language that is accessible for children.
It was originally written in German by theologian Eleonore Beck and the illustrations were painted by Sr Miren Sorne.
The original idea came from ACN’s founder Fr Werenfried van Straaten, in response to a call from Blessed Pope John Paul II to bring the Word of God to the weakest in our world, including children who are “so poor that they cannot afford any book”.
In January 1979 – the beginning of the United Nations’ International Year of the Child – Fr van Straaten distributed the very first copies at the Third General Assembly of Latin American Bishops held at Puebla, Mexico, which was attended by Blessed Pope John Paul II.
• The English Child’s Bible is available from ACN UK for £3, please visit www.acnuk.org/shop (other languages may be available please phone 020 8661 8668 for more details)
• Every Child’s Bible sold enables the charity to distribute three more among poorer Christians in overseas countries
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.