By Susy Hodges
In his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis said he entrusted to the mercy of God all those who have been hit by unemployment due to the current coronavirus pandemic. He prayed, “May the Lord be the Providence of all those in need and encourage us to help them”
The Covid-19 lockdowns have triggered massive unemployment and economic hardship for millions of people across the globe, and Italy has been one of the worst-affected nations. Economic data released this week showed Italy has now officially fallen into recession after its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropped by 4.7 percent in the first quarter of this year.
The first nationwide lockdown
Italy was the first nation to declare a nationwide lockdown and its people have spent nearly two months confined to their homes in a bid to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Companies up and down the country have been forced to lay off over 3 million workers after all non-essential businesses were forced to close their doors. A further three million self-employed workers in Italy are seeing their livelihood hammered by the lockdown.
One of the biggest hits has been to Italy’s travel, hospitality and tourism sector which in 2019 accounted for around 13 percent of the nation’s GDP. Over two million Italians are employed in this industry.
In Rome, the local Caritas network and numerous other charities have swung into action to help the growing number of people struggling to put food on the table after losing their job or livelihood. Many individuals and food store owners are donating food parcels or surplus supplies to the needy. This pattern is being repeated across the whole of the country.
Pope Francis has set up an emergency fund at the Pontifical Mission Societies to aid those being tragically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. He also made the first contribution to the fund by donating 750,000 US dollars.
Appeal to overcome indifference
Over the past two months, the Pope has frequently expressed his deep concern over the devastating economic and social impact of the Covid-19 crisis. In his Easter message the Pope said the pandemic was severely testing our whole human family and called on the nations of the world to overcome indifference, self-centeredness and divisions.