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2010 Annual General Meeting of Populorum Progressio Foundation



Two hundred and thirty projects for the indigenous, mestizo and African-American campesinos [poor farmers] of Latin America and the Caribbean have been examined and 186 approved for 20 countries, totaling more then two million U.S. dollars. This was decided at the Annual General Meeting of the Administrative Board of the autonomous Populorum Progressio Foundation. The meeting was held from 20 to 23 July in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti. Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo, welcomed the participants.

Taking part at this year’s meeting were Cardinal Juan Sandoval Rodríguez, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, President of the Board; Archbishop Edmundo Luís Abastoflor Montero of La Paz, Bolivia, Vice-President of the Board; Archbishop Alberto Taveira Corrêa of Belém do Pará, Brazil; Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza of Guayaquil, Ecuador; Archbishop José Luis Astigarraga Lizarralde, of the Apostolic Vicariate of Yurimaguas, Peru; Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio, Colombia, a new member; Msgr. Segundo Tejado Muñoz, an Official of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and Dr. Juan Vicente Isaza Ocampo, Board Secretary in Bogotá.

Also taking part in the Board’s sessions was Msgr. Giovanni Battista Gandolfo, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference’s Committee for Charitable Interventions for the Third World.

The Foundation, established by Pope John Paul II in 1992, intends to be a sign of the Pope’s charity for the indigenous peoples, campesinos and African Americans of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Administrative Board has seven members: six are Bishops from various Latin American countries and one comes from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. At the beginning of the meeting the various social, political and ecclesial situations of the nations represented in the pastoral context of the whole continent were presented, with a special focus on the situation in Haiti. The 230 projects presented in 2010 by Latin American and Caribbean Dioceses were examined thoroughly. The result was the approval of 186 projects for 20 countries totaling U.S. $ 2,091,500. They will be funded by the Italian Episcopal Conference through the Committee for Charitable Interventions for the Third World, the Foundation’s chief sponsor.

Another 10 projects submitted by Haiti will be funded directly by Cor Unum with donations received for this purpose. The projects approved aim to respond to the different requirements in various sectors: production, community infrastructure, education, health care and building.

This year various Haitian dioceses presented projects for the sinking of wells and the construction of reservoirs: the Diocese of Jérémie, for example, requested funds for the Cayemite Islands for building three reservoirs to collect rain water with the goal of eradicating many infections among the child population that are caused by the shortage of drinking water. Most of the projects aim to benefit the indigenous and rural peoples, for example, the request for a tractor for 60 families of the rural community of Laoinha, in the Brazilian Diocese of Goiás.

This year’s visit to Haiti by the entire Board on 22 July was the most important event. Planned prior to last January’s earthquake, it became an opportunity to ascertain the damage sustained on the spot. Haiti has always been a special concern of the Populorum Progressio Foundation; indeed, since 1993 it has funded a total of 150 projects in this country. The visit also afforded an opportunity to pray at the graves of Archbishop Miot of Port-au-Prince and of Msgr. Benoît, Vicar General, who lost their lives in the earthquake.

In the capital the Delegation visited the ruins of the Major Seminary and of the Cathedral, accompanied by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio, and Bishop Joseph Lafontant, the diocesan administrator. Cardinal Sandoval presided at the celebration of Mass in one of the Church’s camps, with a large number of priests and crowds of the faithful. Benedict XIV’s Message was read during the Liturgy. Together with the Pope’s Message, the Pontiff’s gift of U.S. $ 250,000 was presented for rebuilding of the School of Saint François de Sales in Port-au-Prince. Bureaucratic problems made it necessary to change the school designated and to postpone the presentation of the donation.

In his special Message the Holy Father invited the Haitian people to hope and said that the Church, united with those who are suffering the most, will not cease to make her presence felt through her relief agencies and organizations: “Six months have already passed since the earthquake that devastated your Island, and the Pope wants to remind you”, he wrote, “that he has not forgotten you. He always remembers your anguish and knows of the suffering and difficulties you must face in order to rebuild your homes, your cities and your lives”.

One of the major problems being tackled at this time is certainly that of housing and the need to find a solution for the hundreds and thousands of people who are living in tents and temporary camps. Security problems and moral and human problems are increasing in these places that are not suited to dignified family life.

“The spectacle of the SUVs of the various humanitarian aid agencies, making their way through the jammed streets in the capital”, Msgr. Tejado of Cor Unum explained, “with their different colored flags, made us think of the witness the Church is called to give in such circumstances: an incarnated presence united with those who are suffering, over and above projects, strategies or the funds received”.

“The true humanity of the Church”, the Official of the Dicastery for Charity continued, “consists in giving that ‘something more’ of which Pope Benedict XVI speaks in his first Encyclical Deus caritas est. The Pope reminds us that ‘those who work for the Church’s charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity’ (n. 31a).

“In the spirit of the Pope’s words the Pontifical Council Cor Unum – as the Dicastery that coordinates the various Catholic aid agencies – together with the Apostolic Nunciature, organized a meeting for the various agencies in Haiti, in addition to which several ‘Caritas branches’ from Europe and America were present”.

On this occasion Cardinal Sandoval was able to thank the Holy See on behalf of these institutions for all the work they do in collaboration with the local Church, recalling that this “style of presence” must characterize and hearten those who work in the Church’s charitable institutions.

The last visit was to the offices of Caritas Haiti, where Msgr. Tejado, on behalf of Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President of Cor Unum, consigned to its director a donation of U.S. $ 50,000 from the Pope as a contribution to the demanding work this institution carries out. Msgr. Tejado emphasized that the way forward must be marked by recognition of the importance of the local organizations, their reinforcement and fruitful collaboration with those who come to lend a hand in this difficult period. Responsibility and a lead role in the future depend on the people of Haiti, as does the education of the new generations: it cannot be imposed upon them by anybody.

Once the emergency is over, humanitarian aid must not stand in the way of the integral development of peoples since the Church always looks to the common good, that is, to the integral development of the human being: it is a proposal for the future in which the horizon of transcendence must not be absent; seen as it truly is, it must satisfy and bring relief to human beings.

Published in L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, number 32, Wednesday, 11 August 2010, p. 3