MADRID — A campaign launched this week in Madrid hopes to benefit more than 3,300 priests around the world with donations from the faithful, while facilitating Masses offered for the intentions of participants.

The “Offer a Mass” campaign, organized by Aid to the Church in Need, promotes the collection of a $10 Mass stipend that will help support priests in need. Those who donate will have a Mass offered for their intentions.

Aid to the Church in Need explained that the stipends will help priests who have no money, food or transportation in countries such as India.

The president of the Indian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, in the region of Orissa, attended the launching of the campaign and said, “Thanks to the economic aid from Mass stipends, the faith is being maintained in my diocese. We are poor, but we are very rich in the faith.”

He added, “As Mother Teresa, who received her strength from the Eucharist and prayer, would say, my people are strengthened in prayer and in the Eucharist. For this reason, we appreciate very much the assistance we receive through the Mass intentions.”

The Indian region of Orissa suffered a violent persecution against Christians in 2008, at the hands of radical Hindu groups.

Archbishop John Barwa said that, during the years of persecution, he and his people were truly afraid and fled to the forest.

“We could escape from death, but it was more important to us to confess our faith in God, rather than saving our lives,” he said.

“The persecution taught us to confront our fears and the challenges we have with prayer, conviction and strength, which has made us have a much stronger faith and made us confront our difficulties with greater impetus,” the archbishop explained.

He said the numbers of vocations to the priesthood and to religious life, as well as the number of baptisms in India, have considerably increased since the religious persecution of 2008, because when life is “easy, comfortable and without suffering,” it is “much more difficult to live the faith in a committed way.”

Archbishop Barwa also voiced gratitude for Pope Francis, calling him a “pope of the poor” and saying that the poor see him as a father.

In India, he explained, the greatest number of Christians are in the southern region, and 40% of the social services in the country are provided through the institutions of the Church.

Aid to the Church in Need hopes the campaign will support priests in the world’s poorest regions, where their work to provide the sacraments and manage many works of charity is absolutely necessary.

The organization’s director in Spain, Javier Menendez Rios, pointed to the tradition of offering Masses for the deceased, but noted that Masses can be offered for many other intentions as well. 

He said, “If we pray for a loved one who is sick, a child who is taking a test, an anniversary, why not offer a Mass? We believe it has infinite value, and in addition, we are helping to evangelize.”