By John Pontifex
THE Archbishop of Glasgow told youngsters from primary schools in Scotland about the importance of standing up for religious freedom, saying that around the world Christians suffer the most persecution.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia paid tribute to Aid to the Church in Need’s work for oppressed Christians during a memorial Mass for the Catholic charity’s founder, Fr Werenfried van Straaten.
Taking part in the service at St Bride’s Catholic Church, Cambuslang, were children from St Bride’s Primary School with support from St Ninian’s High School, Giffnock, John Ogilvie High School, Hamilton, Cardinal Newman High School, Bellshill and St Ambrose High School, Coatbridge.
Quoting research showing that around the world Christians suffer 80 percent of religious hatred, Archbishop Tartaglia added: “And in the developed world, religious liberty, especially the liberty to act in accordance with your faith and conscience, is seriously undermined even in the most sophisticated societies like our own.”
Archbishop Tartaglia made the comments during his homily in which he also said: “Who could have guessed that Fr Werenfried’s work carried out by ACN could have become so relevant and so vital in today’s world.”
He added: “Aid to the Church in Need is a sign and an instrument of the indomitable spirit of the Church which, with love and humility and acts of charity and courage, looks evil in the face, refuses to be intimidated, seeks to help those who suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ.”
The archbishop reported on last month’s Synod of Bishops which he attended in Rome, where he said fellow bishops expressed concern about aggression towards Christians and the need to redouble efforts towards inter-religious dialogue and peace-building.
ACN UK Director Neville Kyrke-Smith received a cheque for £10,500 raised by St Bride’s parish, Cambuslang, split between schooling for seven Christian girls in Jordan and pastoral work carried out by Holy Family parish, Gaza.
St Ninian’s High School handed over a cheque for £500 for the work of ACN.
Mr Kyrke-Smith, recently back from a ACN fact-finding and project-assessment trip to Russia, quoted Metropolitan Kirill of Stavropol, saying: “There are no borders to charity – no boundaries or divisions – as we saw with Christ in the way he cared for them.
“And the support of Scottish Catholics for the suffering Church knows no boundaries either.”
After the Mass on Monday (26th November), Lorraine McMahon, ACN Head of Operations in Scotland, said she was very impressed by the “spread of ages” represented at St Bride’s, adding: “For me, the important thing is that, in the Year of Faith, people see how ACN is supporting those who strive to live their faith, often in very difficult circumstances.”
And ACN’s Scottish Secretary Dr John Watts, picked up on an entirely different point, saying: “It was, as the annual Fr Werenfried Memorial Mass always is, a wonderful night – very spiritual, a great team effort.”
Dutch Norbertine priest Fr Werenfried van Straaten founded what became Aid to the Church in Need in 1947 and the charity grew quickly to become a leading pastoral agency of the Catholic Church.
When Fr Werenfried died aged 90 in January 2003, Pope John Paul II described ACN’s founder as “an apostle of charity”.
In December 2011, Pope Benedict XVI elevated the charity to the status of a Pontifical Foundation.