Rome (AsiaNews) – A hall of the Pontificia Università della Santa Croce (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross) will be named after Fr Werenfried van Straaten, founder of “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN). A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 5 pm next Thursday in Rome’s Sant’Apollinare Basilica to mark the fifth anniversary of his death. At the end of the service the naming ceremony will take place in the nearby university. Mgr Mariano Fazio, Santa Croce’s rector; Mgr Sante Babolin, president of ACN’S Italian section, and Dr Hans-Peter Röthlin, ACN International president, will be present.
The naming of a hall in Father van Straaten’s honour is a symbolic recognition and an expression of gratitude towards “Aid to the Church in Need” by the Catholic academic world for the more than 300 scholarships given to men and women religious as well as lay people who study and train in Rome’s Pontifical universities. Education has always been a priority for ACN in its support for the Church’s pastoral work. Last year the overall outlay was over € 5 million (US$ 7.5 million).
Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni (with Fr van Straaten in the photo) was one of the thousands of priests who benefited from ACN support. The young Iraqi priest was killed in June of last year in front of Mosul’s Holy Spirit Church, in Iraq, after he celebrated Mass.
But not long before his death, Father Ganni had a chance to write to ACN and describe the harsh reality Christians must endure in his country.
“The Eucharist,” he wrote, “gives us back the life terrorists try to take from us. Without Sunday Mass, without the Eucharist, we Iraqi Christians could not survive.”