Church’s “Greatest Beggar” Remembered

Aid to the Church in Need Founder Recognized at University

ROME, FEB. 1, 2008 ( The founder of Aid to the Church in Need is being memorialized five years after his death with a lecture hall named after him at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

Father Werenfried van Straaten (1913-2003) founded the charity organization under the authority of the Holy See in 1947.

A dedication ceremony at the university on Thursday began with a Mass celebrated by the rector, Monsignore Mariano Fazio, who observed that “God and the Church today more than ever need credible witnesses to the love of Christ in the world,” like Father Van Straaten.

As president of the directors of the pontifical universities in Rome, Monsignor Fazio thanked Aid to the Church in Need on their behalf for what the charity has done for the students by awarding them scholarships.

The international president of Aid to the Church in Need, Hans-Peter Rothlin, recalled how Father Van Straaten worked for peace and reconciliation during his lifetime.

He said the priest is “one of the spiritual fathers of a united Europe.”

Rothlin also stressed the ecumenical commitment of Father Van Straaten. Some 15 years ago, the priest met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II in Moscow and promised him help in the name of Pope John Paul II. This meeting, Rothlin said, led to “exceptionally friendly relations” between the charity organization and its partners in dialogue within the Russian Orthodox Church. Aid to the Church in Need’s activities in this field were “welcomed and esteemed by the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate alike,” the president affirmed.

Father Van Straaten, a Dutch Norbertine priest and religious, died on Jan. 31, 2003, just two weeks after his 90th birthday. He was described by his contemporaries as a “giant of charity” and as “the greatest beggar in the Church’s history.” The charity he founded supports pastoral projects in some 140 countries.

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