The new Executive President of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Thomas Heine-Geldern, said he intends to continue his predecessor’s approach –including trusting in God for the success of the charity’s work.
The appointment of Mr Heine-Geldern, who previously served as president of the board of ACN’s Austrian office, was publicly announced during a ceremony held at the charity’s International Headquarters in Königstein, near Frankfurt, Germany. Paying tribute to outgoing Executive President Baron Johannes Heereman von Zuydtwyck, Mr Heine-Geldern said his predecessor’s “faith, drive, cheerful equanimity and trust in God” will be a model for his leadership of the charity. In his short address, Mr Heine-Geldern spoke about the “role of ACN as a bridge of love and prayer”, describing how the charity unites the worldwide community of benefactors and its project partners in more than 140 countries. Mr Heine-Geldern added that this means each benefactor can be a partner in evangelisation while continuing to live their everyday life. He said that faith and professionalism are the tools the charity must use to pursue its objective: “to act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God”. He described the the charity as a family, when speaking about how the 23 national offices work together with the International headquarters in Königstein.
Mr Heine-Geldern emphasised ACN’s work in the Middle East. In 2014, he travelled to Iraq with then ACN Executive President Heereman shortly after Daesh (ISIS) forced Christians in the Nineveh Plains to flee from their homes. Following the exodus, ACN has provided more than 40 million euros for emergency aid, pastoral assistance and reconstruction projects in Iraq. He said it was a sign of providence that he has just returned from another trip to Iraq right before taking up his new position.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, President of the foundation, thanked Baron Heereman for his seven years as Executive President. During his term in office, the charity, which was founded 70 years ago by Father Werenfried van Straaten, the “bacon priest”, was named a pontifical foundation by Pope Benedict XVI. In addition, six new national offices were founded and donations rose to around 120 million euros per year. Mr Heine-Geldern said he inherits a well-ordered organisation and hopes that, with advice from his predecessor and the help of employees from the headquarters and national offices, he will be able to maintain the charity’s high level of achievement. The new executive president, 66, is fluent in English and French – as well as his native German – and has held seats on the boards of a number of companies. He received a doctorate in Law from the University of Vienna and an M.B.A. from the business school of INSEAD (Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires) in Fontainebleau, near Paris. He has been married for more than 40 years and has four children.