Death of Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need

Source: FSSPX News


They called him the “the greatest beggar of the twentieth century”, a title that Fr. Werenfried van Straaten has certainly richly deserved. In half a century, the legendary “Bacon Priest”, collected more than 3 million francs, at Masses and preachings, for the Catholic charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) which he founded in 1947.

Werenfried van Straaten was born 17th January 1913 in Mijdrecht (Holland).After studying classical literature at Utrecht, he entered the Abbey of the Premonstratensians of Tongerlo, in Belgium, at the age of twenty one, where he was ordained priest in 1940.

It was in the wake of the Second World war, that Werenfried van Straaten was touched by the unspeakable suffering of millions of refugees and displaced persons, surviving in a Germany in ruins, tormented by hunger, rubble their only shelter. He began in Flanders, collecting clothing and food. It was not easy to travel through Belgium and Holland, begging aid for the vanquished enemy, but he succeeded in collecting hundreds of tons of bacon for the starving Germans. Hence the nickname “Bacon Priest”.

In 1949, Fr.Werenfried launched his “churches on wheels” mission: lorries, delivery vans, tractors with trailers, constructed as churches, traveled the roads of half of Europe. From their portable chapels, priests said Mass, preached, heard confessions, distributed Holy Communion, consoled, and appealed to the faithful along their route for donations….

Fr. Werenfried remembered well, passing through Switzerland, with one of his “churches on wheels”: “I was passing through the canton of Schwyz, preaching and begging. The amount people gave was fantastic. A young man put an envelope containing 10,000 francs into the collection box, with these words: This money was for our trousseau, as we are getting married in three months. We could have used it to set up our home. But you will find a better use for it behind the Iron Curtain.”

He preached in almost every part of the world, and it was in churches bursting at the seams, that the priest dressed in white made such an impression on the faithful, with his moving accounts of the sufferings of the persecuted churches and the succor his charity gave to them. At the end of Mass, he invariably stood at the door with his black “millions hat”, an old crumpled hat, destined to receive the offerings of the conquered faithful! With a wink, he pointed out that his old soft hat was full of holes, and so it was much better to put notes in, as the coins might fall through…..

When the construction of post-war Europe was well under way, Fr. Werenfried became aware of other areas of need, and assigned some new goals to his work: from then on, his great charity and pastoral work developed behind the Iron Curtain, even in the heart of the Eastern Bloc, in central and eastern Europe and then in Latin America, before finally extending his mission to all the countries of the world, where the Church, her priests, religious and her faithful must suffer persecution, oppression and all kinds of material poverty.

Today, the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, can count on the regular support of more than 700,000 donors in 16 countries. During the last few years, ACN has been granted permission to give several hundred million dollars to finance theological and pastoral formation, to support Church media, to subsidize the cost of re-building churches, convents, chapels and to meet the cost of new ones…..

Unfortunately, Fr. Werenfried’s generosity did not protect him from conciliar errors or the current delusion of ecumenism.The end of his life was marked by a somewhat excessive commitment to the material and financial support of the Russian Orthodox Church, to such an extent that even the Russian archbishop Mgr. Kondrusieviecz protested. It of no little significance that the prelate responsible for foreign affairs in the Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow, Metropolitan Krill, present at his funeral, said that the death of Fr.van Straaten was a “great loss to the Russian Orthodox Church”, of which he had become a “true friend”. Let it be well understood, it is certainly possible to have “true friends” amongst the Orthodox, but it is quite another thing to support schismatics with habitual large donations, without forgetting either that, as Mgr. Kondrusieviecz revealed, this money goes towards anti-Catholic propaganda.

Still, justice and gratitude urge us to evoke a fact which is all to the credit of Fr. Werenfried: he supported the priestly Society of St Pius X in its infancy, with considerable financial generosity. RIP.