Papal Charity Worldwide
Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"
John Paul II shows his closeness to the needy in 2004 through 'Cor Unum'
Diakonia (service) is one of the essential functions of the ecclesial mission. It particularly concerns the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, one of whose principal tasks is to foster an evangelical spirit and the ecclesial bond in Catholic relief agencies.
It does this in conformity with the prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, which entrusts to this Dicastery the task of "[giving] witness to evangelical charity". In this context, it is only right to mention the closer link Caritas Internationalis has with the Pontifical Council, established by the Papal Chirograph "During the Last Supper" of 16 September 2004 (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 December 2004, p. 6).
To carry out this task, various initiatives were implemented, ranging from meetings with the Bishops during their ad limina visits to talks given during study days and at seminars and conferences.
Cor Unum's charitable activity on the Holy Father's behalf fits into this broad horizon and is summed up in this article.
On 27 December 2004, the day after the devastating tsunami that battered several countries in Southeast Asia and whose violence was felt even on the coasts of Somalia, Pope John Paul II wanted to express his fatherly and spiritual closeness to the peoples worst hit by this calamity. He had aid sent immediately to: Sri Lanka (US $100,000), Indonesia (US $75,000), India (US $75,000), Thailand (US $50,000) and Somalia (US $10,000), based on the very first information on the magnitude of the damage caused by the tsunami. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum immediately carried out the Pope's instructions.
A month later (29 January to 4 February 2005), he entrusted Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of Cor Unum and his special Envoy to Indonesia and Sri Lanka — the two Countries mourning the greatest number of victims —, with a personally signed Message of solidarity and spiritual closeness to the afflicted peoples, in order to facilitate and coordinate the endeavours of the various Catholic aid organizations working on the spot. Emergency relief was provided through the generous dedication of their volunteer workers, set on witnessing the love of Christ to the neediest.
Significant and deeply moving was the presentation to the little orphans, lovingly taken in by the Princess Grace Children's Orphanage in Kalutara, Sri Lanka, of a statuette of the Child Jesus that originally came from Bethlehem, donated through Cor Unum by the children of the Cathedral Parish of Crema, Italy.
The last instructions given by John Paul II, two days before his definitive encounter with the Eternal Father, included the gift of additional aid to build a school in Sri Lanka (US $100,000) and for the people on the Island of Nias in Indonesia who were struck by another earthquake (US $50,000).
The Pope had previously sent Archbishop Cordes as his personal messenger to Darfur, Sudan, from 22 to 26 July 2004. The Pontiff asked the Archbishop to express his fatherly and spiritual closeness to the peoples there, predominantly Christian and tormented by civil war, in order to strengthen their faith and encourage them to hope.
On this occasion, the Holy Father's Envoy presented the local Church with a gift of €100,000 to help the needy.
From 19 to 27 June, at the Pope's request, Archbishop Cordes visited the peoples of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, who had been victimized by devastating floods. He brought them an initial allocation of funds, which was later repeated.
These three missions took place in accordance with a consolidated practice that has proven most effective in the past 30 years of the activity of the Holy See's Dicastery for Charity: a meeting with the Pastors of the local Church, a visit to the communities hardest hit by the disaster and a meeting with the civil Authorities, a coordination meeting with the Catholic relief agencies working in the field. The highlight of the missions always consists in the Eucharistic Celebration, source and summit of every charitable action by the universal Church and the particular Churches.
Cor Unum, one of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia that John Paul II expressly wished to retain with his Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of 25 June 1988, is as it were the ear of the Holy Father that listens to requests for aid from countries struck by every kind of disaster. In 2004, thanks also to the spontaneous generosity of dioceses, religious institutes, parishes, schools and individual members of the faithful, it was able to allocate aid in various circumstances, as shown in TABLE 1.
Type of Emergency
Allocation in US$
Allocation in €
Migrants and Refugees
The Pope's attention, however, was not limited to emergencies. In 2004, through Cor Unum, he wanted to give a sign of his spiritual closeness to the peoples in developing countries by encouraging their integral promotion, supporting projects for children, women, the elderly and the disabled, as outlined in TABLE 2.
Allocations in US$
Allocation in €
The Pope's Charity is also dispensed through two other organizations whose management he has entrusted to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum: the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, established in 1984 to support the people of that region in their fight against drought and desertification, and the Populorum Progressio Foundation, founded in 1992 to serve the indigenous peoples and mestizo and African-American poor farmers of Latin America.
The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel
The Annual Meeting of the Administrative Council was held in Bissau from 10 to 19 February 2004. Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio in Dakar, and Mr Giovanni Bianchini, the Dicastery's accountant, participated as representatives of the Holy See.
In all, 169 projects were approved for an overall total of €1,771,157. TABLE 3 shows the individual countries that benefited, the number of projects approved per country, with the relative total amount allocated.
Total Funding in €
Of the 169 projects funded, 25 dealt with the environment, 21 agriculture, 14 stock breeding, 36 the training of community leaders, 16 self-sufficiency, eight administration, 27 water supply, nine health care and 13, professional training.
The funding granted comes mainly from the generous contributions of the Italian faithful through their Bishops' Conference, and from the donations of Religious Institutes and individual benefactors who, by their constant contributions, enable the Foundation to witness to our brethren in the region of the Sahel to the fraternal concern of the universal Church.
The remainder comes from income earned by the capital of the Foundation
invested in Germany. As has been mentioned in the past, this was collected by the local Church on the occasion of the Holy Father's Visit in 1980.
The 'Populorum Progressio' Foundation
The Administrative Board met this year in Brasilia, Brazil, from 20 to 28 July. The Dicastery was represented by Fr Segundo Tejado. Archbishop Cordes was unable to take part because the meeting in Brasilia coincided with his mission on behalf of the Holy Father to Darfur, Sudan.
Of the more than 260 projects presented, 231 were approved for an overall amount of US $1,881,000, allocated per country as can be seen in TABLE 4.
Total Funding in US$
The 231 approved projects seek to promote the integral advancement of the indigenous poor farming communities in Latin American countries in the following sectors: production (sheepfarming, micro-business initiatives, community trade); community infrastructures (drinking water, fencing, WCs and multipurpose halls); building (schools, homes, health-care centres); education (professional training, communications, furnishings and publications); and community health (training and the provision of health-care equipment).
The Foundation's activity is made possible by the generosity of the Italian faithful through their Bishops' Conference, and by the donations of individuals and Religious Institutes.
With regard to the two Foundations, it is important to emphasize that in setting them up, Pope John Paul II wanted them to bear permanent witness to his love for the peoples of the Sahel and of Latin America, appealing to all the local Churches, to the faithful and to all people of good will to support this valuable service to the integral advancement of these peoples.
It is likewise indispensable to know that the aid allocated through Cor Unum does not represent the totality of the Pope's charity, which is also allocated through other channels, such as the Pontifical Missionary Societies, the Office of Papal Charities and other institutions.
Aid that Cor Unum allocates in the Holy Father's name comes from the spontaneous gifts that the faithful desire to entrust to the Pope in the event of some catastrophe, or in accordance with his intentions for the neediest in different parts of the world.
Weekly Edition in English
11 May 2005, page 6
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