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90 y.o. Norbertine "most successful beggar in the world"

Fr Werenfried van Straaten O.Praem, the
founder of the international Catholic charity
Aid to the Church in Need, has been
honoured in Germany by being given the
freedom of the town of Königstein where the
charity is headquartered. In the award
ceremony, the mayor of Königstein,
Siegfried Fricke, described Fr Straaten as
the "most successful beggar in the world"
having raised over 3 billion Euros in his
lifetime for charitable works around the

Fr Straaten was ordained in 1940 and at
Christmas 1947 he resolved to help the
Germans who had been expelled from their
former homes in Eastern Europe. To do this
he collected donations in cash and in kind -
including most notably bacon - among the
local Flemish country people. As a result he
quickly earned the nickname of "bacon
priest", a name he is still known by today.
Right from the start he saw it as his life's
mission to work to overcome hatred among
men and to promote the cause of peace and
reconciliation. In the 1950s Father
Werenfried began to support the persecuted
and oppressed Christians in Eastern
Europe, behind the Iron Curtain. From the
1960s onwards he extended the range of
the charity he had founded to Latin America,
Africa and Asia. As a result Aid to the Church
in Need is today helping the poor, the needy
and the oppressed almost everywhere in the
world. Since the collapse of communism in
the East, Father Werenfried has also worked
with all his energy for reconciliation between
the Catholic Church and the Russian
Orthodox Church. Mayor Fricke noted that the
current priority of Aid to the Church in Need
is to support the building and repair of
church properties, the training and support
of priests and religious and the
dissemination of religious literature. Mayor
Fricke put the total funds raised by the
charity, which has had its international
headquarters in Königstein since 1975, at
"around 3 billion Euros".

The charity today helps in over 130 countries
around the globe and thus draws important
Church dignitaries from all over the world to
its international headquarters in Königstein.
Referring to this fact, the mayor remarked in
conclusion that "through Father Werenfried
Königstein has become known to the world
and the world has come to Königstein." In
her address Antonia Willemsen, the present
general secretary of Aid to the Church in
Need, also stressed the close bond
between the charity and the town of
Königstein and its people. Father
Werenfried responded by expressing his
gratitude for the honour accorded him.


24 Dec 2002