Our History

For more than 70 years, Aid to the Church in Need has reached out to the persecuted, the suffering and the poorest of the poor around the world.

From its beginning, ACN is work of charity and reconciliation at the service of suffering Christians. We continue in this spirit, at the hand of benefactors, to help the Church keep the Faith alive where it is most threatened by persecution, discrimination or poverty.

1947   Father Werenfried van Straaten calls on the people of Belgium and the Netherlands to help displaced Germans, including 3,000 priests (hence the original name “Ostpriesterhilfe”). This aid to former enemies was a unique act of reconciliation.

1950   Start of the “Chapel Truck Initiative” – 35 trucks are converted into “mobile chapels” for persons displaced from their homeland

1952   Start of aid for the persecuted Church behind the “Iron Curtain” 

1953   Foundation of the International Building Order to construct houses and churches for the poor

1956   After the Hungarian uprising, the local Church is assisted

1959   Start of the Asian Assistance Fund and first encounter of Father Werenfried with Mother Teresa in the “House of the Dying” in Calcutta

1962   Father Werenfried participates in the Second Vatican Council; start of aid to Latin America

1965   Start of aid in Africa

1966   The congregation of the “Daughters of the Resurrection” is founded; the first educational facilities for young African women are constructed in the Congo

1970   Beginning of the relief operation for the Church in Haiti

1975   Relocation of the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need from Rome to Königstein/Taunus

1979   Start of the “Children’s Bible” project. The Bible has since been translated into 189 languages; around 51 million copies have been published and distributed to date

1984   Recognition of Aid to the Church in Need by the Holy See as a Universal Public Association of Pontifical Right

1989   Political turning point in Eastern Europe, aid for reconstruction and new evangelisation in the former Eastern Bloc countries

1992   Aid for the reconstruction and the new evangelisation in Eastern Europe and start of the reconciliation project with the Russian Orthodox Church

1997   50th anniversary of Aid to the Church at Need

​2003   Father Werenfried dies on 31 January at the age of 90 in his place of residence, Bad Soden/Taunus

2007   Pope Benedict XVI asks ACN to strengthen its commitment in the Middle East

2011 Re-founding of the charity as a Foundation of Pontifical right by Pope Benedict XVI.

2011 Beginning of ACN campaigns for Syria, including the “Light a candle for peace” initiative.

2014 until today: ACN starts an urgent emergency aid campaign to help Christians in Iraq, in order to enable them to stay in their home country. More than 5000 houses were renovated.

2014-19 Opening of ACN South Korea, the international pastoral charity’s first office in Asia. Further expansion of the charity to Mexico, Malta, the Philippines, Colombia and Slovakia.

2017 ACN’s Benefactor Pilgrimage to Fatima to celebrate its 70th Anniversary.

2017 ACN assumes responsibility for the yearly campaign “1 million children praying the rosary”.

2018 Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern is appointed new Executive President of ACN International.

2019 ACN receives the Path to Peace Award from the Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

2019 Safeguarding becomes one of the project funding priorities.

2020 Worldwide support to Christians in their fight against the Covid pandemic.

2020 Emergency campaign for Lebanon after the Beirut blast.