Ground-breaking initiatives to support poverty-stricken Catholics in a forgotten corner of Eastern Europe have received valuable support from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
ACN has announced grants providing help for a new pastoral center in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, seen as an important tool for outreach to the nearby Christian community.
Amid reports that a third of people in Macedonia are unemployed, the Macedonian Church turned to ACN, which is contributing $10,600 for the pastoral center.
The grant to revamp and equip the pastoral center is one of a string of aid payments for key projects in Eastern Europe made by ACN this month.
The pastoral center is under threat from damp conditions, and new heating is urgently required in a country where winters can reach temperatures of -15C.
Further support for Macedonia comes in the shape of a $5,300 grant to renovate a priest’s house, again in Skopje, which is also badly in need of repairs.
Monsignor Antun Cirimotic, director of the pastoral center, which was built in 1983, told ACN it needed a lot of work to make it fit for mission.
He said, “For 26 years now there has been absolutely no renovation work done on the house.”
The Macedonian Church is active in social work throughout the country, running soup kitchens, orphanages and hospitals.
Bishop Kiro Stojanov of Skopje said, “People respect us. Being widely scattered, we are visible everywhere. We have many vocations, even though we are a small Church.”
The Church has many challenges in a country where just 18 priests serve 20,000 Catholics in a total population of 2 million.
In neighboring Albania the Church is continuing to grow following the collapse of communism, although it has not yet received back all the property seized by the former communist government.
In Albania’s Shkodre Diocese a pastoral center is being rebuilt with ACN providing $5,300 to help the project. The new center will be an important step forward for the Church in the region.
ACN is also giving subsistence aid to Redemptorist Sisters in Slovakia and Basilian Sisters in Romania to help them continue their important work.
Training and supporting vocations continue to be priorities for ACN, and the charity is helping with the formation of novices and other Sisters in Carmelites of Child Jesus and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Angels in Poland.
ACN April aid payments also include aid for the Church in other parts of the world. The charity supported two new chapels and a presbytery in Ethiopia, and assistance was given to missionaries in Bolivia. The charity also helped pay for a new church in Vijaygiri, India.