Werenfried van Straaten

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Father Werenfried van Straaten, one of the three "Königsteiner Kirchenväter" ("Church Fathers from Königstein"), a statue by Christoph Loch

Father Werenfried (Philipp) van Straaten O.Praem. (January 17, 1913 – January 31, 2003) who came to be known as the "Bacon Priest", was a Premonstratensian priest known for his humanitarian work, particularly as founder of the international Catholic association Aid to the Church in Need. Born in Mijdrecht, Netherlands in 1913, he originally intended to become a teacher and enrolled at the University of Utrecht in 1932. By 1934, he had entered Tongerlo Abbey, of the Norbertine Order, (taking the religious name Werenfried, in honour of an early Medieval Germanic saint), where he became the abbot's secretary, after a bout of tuberculosis that left him too weak for missionary work.

He first rose to public attention at Christmas, 1947, when he wrote an article entitled "Peace on Earth? No Room at the Inn," in which he appealed to all faithful to help the fourteen million German civilians displaced from the east at the end of World War II, six million of whom were Roman Catholics. These refugees and expellees resided in very primitive camps, mostly former Nazi concentration camps or Allied POW camps located in the western occupation zones of Germany and - for a minority - in the Netherlands and Belgium, and suffered from malnutrition and lack of medical care.

The response to the article of Van Straaten was unexpectedly generous, proving charity still existed and hatred was lessening towards the former enemies.

He earned his nickname, "Bacon Priest" (Dutch: Spekpater) due to his appeals to Flemish farmers for contributions of food for the German refugees, appeals which met with considerable amounts of meat being donated.

This initial work led to the formation of Aid to the Church in Need (Kirche in Not), centered in Königstein, Germany. From 1950, he was active in Catholic relief work worldwide, through church appeals, public speaking, and his newsletter, The Mirror, which he began publishing in 1953. He also wrote a number of books ("They Call Me The Bacon Priest", 1960).

In later years he was active in demonstrating and speaking out against abortion in Western Europe and the United States.

He died on January 31, 2003 at Bad Soden in Germany at the age of 90 years.

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