By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis recently set up a Commission to manifest the Church’s care for people around the world affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Caritas Internationalis plays a key role in the Vatican task force, due to its vast network of aid agencies spread out in local dioceses in 160 nations.
The Catholic Church’s human development arm released a communiqué on Thursday launching a new fundraising initiative called the “Covid-19 Response Fund”.
Aloysius John, the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, spoke to Vatican Radio about the Church’s role in helping those suffering during the ongoing pandemic.
Pope Francis’s concern
“Pope Francis is very much preoccupied with Covid-19, and he wants the Church to express solidarity with the local Churches and help them at this moment as a gesture of witnessing the universal love and care of the universal Church for the local Church,” said Mr. John.
The Commission which the Pope set up consists of five working groups. Caritas Internationalis belongs to the first working group, which is dedicated to listening and supporting local Churches.
“We have lots of experience in the areas of health and micro-development, and we are present down to the parish-level in a very capillary way in service of the Church,” said Mr. John.
Sign of solidarity
Caritas has already sent out a survey and received responses from 140 Bishops’ Conferences.
Therefore, Caritas already has a wealth of information which can be used to better distribute aid in case of a local outbreak of Covid-19.
Mr. John said the solidarity fund will be used to provide healthcare services in the areas of prevention and control of infections, access to clean water and sanitation, and procurement of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc).
Providing food to those in lockdown
Food security is one area that Caritas is most concerned about. Some poor people in developing nations consider Covid-19 to be the lesser of two evils. They prefer to defy social-distancing measures to go out in search of work.
“How are we going to help them? If they don’t have food, then they have to go out to search for food and expose themselves, and others, to the contagious effects of the disease,” Mr. John points out.
He said that Caritas is most concerned about parts of Africa and the Middle East where wars and internal conflicts have left many people poor and vulnerable.
Caritas Jerusalem’s staff in Palestine is already running out of money and may be forced to stop offering food and hygiene kits to 500 families in need.
Solidarity in times of distancing
With local agencies’ needs increasing as the coronavirus spreads, Caritas Internationalis has set up the Covid-19 Response Fund to raise money to send to local Churches.
“The coronavirus solidarity fund is a means to assist small projects which will allow Caritas to help the people who are confined,” Mr. John said.
One project is Caritas Philippines’ “Kindness Centers” set up at parishes. People wanting to help can bring their excess food supplies to the centers. They are then distributed to local families in need.
“We are there to help them create solidarity,” Mr. John said. “We are all in solidarity before the virus, but I think we also have to be in solidarity with people to help them live with dignity.”
Educators of solidarity
The Covid-19 Response Fund offers people around the world a chance to help those in need, even from the confines of their own homes.
“Let us join hands in helping us to help the poor, the needy, and the most vulnerable,” said Mr. John. “Pope Francis wants us to be ‘educators of solidarity’ and, at the same time, actors in the field of solidarity.”
How to help
Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Covid-19 Response Fund can do so through Caritas Internationalis’s website. A Bank Account has been opened specifically for this fund at the Vatican Bank (Institute for the Works of Religion). Funds can be wired using the IBAN: VA29001000000020179007