Rome (AsiaNews/ACN) With over 600,000 benefactors in 16 countries in Europe, North and South America and Austrialia, «Aid to the Church in Need», a pontifically-recognized charity founded by Father Werefried van Staaten in 1947, raised some 70 million euros in 2004. Approximately 6000 projects were carried out in 137 countries at the indication of local bishops: these projects supported the Church so that pastoral efforts were not seriously penalized or prevented due to the lack of economic means or to difficulties deriving from religious freedom violations.
Beneficiaries of ACN assistance were located most notably in: Sudan, where projects for over 1 million euros were carried out in 2004: Ukraine (approximately 4.6 million euros): Cuba (780,000 euros); and Vietnam, where more than 850,000 euros were invested in projects. Smaller, but equally significant amounts (given the size of the Church's presence), went to projects in various countries of Oceania, including Vanuatu, Tonga and the Salomon Islands.
Three kinds of projects were carried out in Russia, with initiatives in favour of the Catholic Church (almost 1.2 million euros), the pastoral of the Orthodox Church (some 800,000 euros) and inter-confessional initiatives, to which more than 1.2 million euros were destined.
Pastoral urgencies that received most assistance included the construction and restoration of places of worship, seminaries and convents (27.1 %), Catholic-inspired media (17.3%) and theological education (17.2%), including scholarships to pontifical universities. The distribution of religious printed material, ranking 5th at 13.2 %, is also one of ACN's primary activities, achieved most notably through the printing and distribution of the collection of biblical texts, God speaks to His Children. Over 1.5 million copies were distributed in 2004, bringing total circulation since 1978 to over 40 million copies which, available in 150 languages, support children's catechism across the world.