PONTIFICAL COUNCIL "COR UNUM"
Showing Christ's love to those in need
The Holy Father's charitable activity across the world for the year 2000
In the Pope's name the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" donated over 2.5 billion lire to the victims of natural disasters and wars in 29 countries, about 2 billion lire for human and Christian development. The Council donated more than 4 billion lire for the development of poor indigenous, mestizo and African-American populations in South America. Cor Unum also donated from the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel about 6 billion lire to combat drought and desertification in countries of the region.
This year the exact date of the 30th anniversary of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" for human and Christian advancement is 15 July. The priority of this dicastery, established by Pope Paul VI with his Apostolic Letter Amoris officio (the duty of love), is to harmonize the activities of the ecclesial organizations, associations and groups involved in the field of social and charitable assistance to people in countries hit by natural disasters and wars, and human advancement in the developing countries. Paul VI's main concern in this area was to encourage the most efficient possible use of the available, although insufficient resources, in order to bear a faithful witness of fraternal love, in the various circumstances in the light of the Gospel teachings.
The same concern inspired Pope John Paul II to keep Cor Unum among the dicasteries of the Apostolic See when he reformed the Roman Curia with his Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus on 28 June 1988.
Faced with the numerous natural disasters, the vast scale of peoples on the move driven by conditions of extreme poverty, war and the ethnic clashes that have become more and more widespread in the past 20 years, and the progressive marginalization of the poor both in the developing and industrialized countries, the commitment of ecclesial organizations, associations and groups has become increasingly animated and professional and, here and there, goes beyond the criterion of mere charitable aid. This task obviously required the professional growth of their directors and workers, even if they are volunteers. This fact has certainly exposed them to the risk of a secularization that threatens their primary motivation to witness to God's love for man, incarnate in the person of Christ.
Responding to a specific demand, on 27 November last year, Cor Unum arranged a meeting with several ecclesial organizations, associations and groups, to reflect on the identity and operational criteria of every Catholic agency involved in the socio-charitable field.
This is also the context of the activity carried out by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum during the Year of the Great Jubilee, as the instrument of the Pope's charity for peoples struck by disasters, by the consequences of hatred that sets members of the same people or of different peoples against one another, and in support of projects for human and Christian advancement in the poorest countries and, at times, also in those that are industrialized. The following tables offer a simplified but significant summary.
1. Aid to countries stricken by disasters or war
Unfortunately, as happens every year, numerous disasters also struck peoples in various parts of the world in 2000, while chronic emergencies resulting from the serious conflicts in past years have continued to give rise to the immigration or emigration of refugees in various areas. To mention but a few: the earthquake in the Philippines, the droughts in Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia, the flooding in Peru, Mozambique, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Italy and Viêt nam, the uprisings in several islands of the Archipelago of the Moluccas and in Nigeria, the refugees from East Timor and Kosovo, the refugees in Tanzania, the natural disaster in Mongolia, the war in Afghanistan, the war and its consequences in the Congo, the Philippines and Uganda, the cyclones in Madagascar, the refugees in Syria, refugees to and from Sudan and Zambia, the persistent serious consequences of the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, refugees to and from Eritrea. While we read these lines, the acute wounds left on the peoples of El Salvador and India by the earthquake are still serious and clearly visible.
Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of Cor Unum, was sent by the Holy Father to show his personal concern and the care and closeness of the Church and the Apostolic See for the peoples hit by the earthquake in Taiwan at the end of 1999 (11-18 January), for the flood victims of Mozambique (8-12 March) and of Val d'Aosta in Italy (25 October). In the countries mentioned, he had the opportunity to meet Bishops, priests, those in charge of relief agencies, volunteer workers and civil authorities. Particularly moving, were the meetings with the afflicted peoples, whereas the high point of his three visits was the Eucharistic celebration with the participation of a great many people, to emphasize the importance of the life of faith in every situation which must imbue the victims and rescuers in a mutual embrace in the light of Christ's charity.
In all the above-mentioned situations, the dicastery offered a concrete sign of solidarity and fraternal support on behalf of the Holy Father. The following table shows in chronological order the Pope's gifts that were allocated through "Cor Unum".
These gifts were made possible by the generosity of certain Dioceses which, despite their poverty, offered their Lenten collection for 2000 to the Pope's charity, and by religious institutes, especially women's, as well as by foundations and individual members of the faithful who wanted to offer the Holy Father their testimony of fraternal solidarity to the neediest, who suffer in body and soul the tragic consequences of natural disasters or those caused by human wickedness.
2. Support for projects of human and Christian promotion
"Cor Unum" did not fail to encourage and support the projects of human and Christian promotion realized in various parts of the world by the initiative of the particular Churches, especially through the action of religious institutes and local Catholic organizations. Special attention was paid to the homeless, the elderly, abandoned children, the sick, the disabled, the formation of educators, schools, and spiritual and material assistance to refugees. The dicastery expressed this attention with financial contributions which, although symbolic in relation to the size of the real needs, often acted as an incentive to continue generously on the way taken by the various agents. The following list shows contributions made by "Cor Unum" on behalf of the Holy Father during the Year 2000.
Here too, we would like to renew our sentiments of deep gratitude to all the Dioceses, foundations, religious institutes and individual benefactors who enabled the dicastery to give a visible sign of the concern of the Holy Father and the Apostolic See to those who are suffering in body and spirit the abuses of poverty, sickness, hardship and underdevelopment.
The allocation of funds collected from the extraordinary project of "Panis Caritatis", promoted in Italy during the preparation for the Great Jubilee continued. With these it was possible to enlarge the programme of producing bread ovens for Kinshasa and encouraging the opening of bakeries in Lodja, Democratic Republic of the Congo, while also funding an infant and mother health-care project in Guinea Bissau. The summary of the projects shows the following data:
- Bread ovens project for Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo: US$: 99,750
- Infant and mother health-care project in Guinea: US$ 52,500.
- For Sudanese refugees in Uganda: US$ 57,750.
- Support for breeding small livestock in Kabgayi, Rwanda: US$ 66,150.
- Schooling for poor orphans of Kabgayi, Rwanda: US$ 19,950.
- Equipment of a carpentry workshop in Kaemba, Democratic Republic of the Congo: US$ 10,500.
- Bakery shop in Lodja, Democratic Republic of the Congo: US$ 32,260.
- Total funds allocated by "Panis Caritatis" until 30 December 2000: US$ 335,850.
As announced, this initiative was extended to other countries: in Poland more than 30,000 loaves were sold, in Chile more than 1,300,000, in Mexico more than 500,000 and in Uruguay more than 98,000. The funds collected will be used to fund development projects in the respective countries. The sums collected in the countries mentioned depend entirely on the local Church's institutions. Here we offer a simplified summary of the data they have provided on the use of the money made by the project.
- Caritas Poland: for a social-assistance and educational centre in Bize, Albania: US$ 5,750;
- Caritas Chile: for the poor in 25 Dioceses: US$ 31,700;
- Caritas Uruguay: social centres for poor children and adults in six Dioceses: US$ 3,600.
Forthcoming data from Mexico is expected.
Under the auspices of the dicastery operates the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, created by the Holy Father John Paul II in 1984 for the purpose of equipping the Church in the region of the Sahel with the means to fight drought and desertification and the Populorum Progressio Foundation, created by the Supreme Pontiff himself in 1992 to encourage the human and Christian promotion of poor indigenous, mestizo and African-American farming communities in Latin America.
This year, taking the opportunity offered by the Great Jubilee, it was considered appropriate to convoke joint meetings of the administrative boards of both Foundations. They were held at the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican from 25 June to 1 July (Sahel) and from 2-7 July (Populorum Progressio). On Tuesday, 4 July, the Holy Father received the members of the 2 councils together with the superiors and the personnel of Cor Unum. Reflecting with them on "the value and meaning of the Church's work on behalf of the very poor" and on the Church's awareness of not being able to meet every need, the Pope said: "the Church does not intend to be merely an agency of humanitarian aid; rather, she wishes to bear witness in every way to the love of Christ, who frees human beings from all evil". In addressing the members of the Foundation for the Sahel, the Holy Father, recalling the heartfelt appeal he addressed to the international community from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to support the peoples of the Sahel region who were the worst hit by drought and desertification, he said: "20 years later, that appeal has not, unfortunately, lost its timeliness: not only in the desert areas of North Africa, but throughout the planet, the problem of water has become more serious and urgent. Lack of water will perhaps be the main issue that humanity will have to address in the near future. For this reason, national leaders should not fail to adopt suitable measures for promoting equitable access to so precious a good for all humanity ... we have a serious responsibility towards future generations, who will demand an account of our efforts to protect the natural resources which the Creator entrusted to mankind to be used with care and respect".
At their own meeting the board members of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, chaired by Bishop Séraphin Rouamba of Koupéla, Burkina Faso, ratified and approved the funding of 312 small and large-scale projects in the field of the training of personnel specialized in fighting drought and desertification, for supplying water and for improving agriculture and health care for a total of US$ 2,992,097.26. The following table illustrates, country by country, the projects approved in the various sectors and the overall amount of funds allocated.
A) Environment; B) Agriculture; C) Livestock raising; D) Animation; E) Self-promotion; F) Project management; G) Water supply; H) Health care; I) Technical training
The Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", as an incentive to achieve the aims of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, deemed it opportune to foster relations among those in charge of this Foundation and of MASHAV, an Israeli non-government organization particularly expert in the discovery, preservation and use of water resources. To this end, the President of "Cor Unum" has initiated direct contact with the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See and visited some of the projects carried out by MASHAV.
The Board of Directors of the Populorum Progressio Foundation, whose meeting was organized at the same time by the General Secretary and by Msgr. Francisco Azcona, Undersecretary of "Cor Unum", hence also a council member, examined 258 projects, deliberating on the financing of 209, distributing a total of US$ 1,923,500,00 in 20 countries of Central America, Latin America and the Carribean. The sessions were chaired by Archbishop Fabio Betancur Tirado of Manizales. The first of the following two tables illustrates the deployment of the projects approved for the various countries and the total sum allocated for them, while the second gives a summary of the project sectors.
The activity of the two foundations was made possible by the generosity of the Italian Episcopal Conference, by the support of the Papal Foundation and of religious institutes, associations and individual members of the faithful, as well as by the income produced by their initial capital. It is useful to recall that the initial capital of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel was constituted with the sum collected by the Church in Germany after the Pope's appeal from Ouagadougou on 10 May 1980, while that of the Populorum Progressio Foundation comes from the fund of that name set up by Pope Paul VI on 26 March 1969.
The above explanations of the various forms in which the Pope's charity is expressed are not exhaustive. In fact, it would be necessary to add the contributions allocated to the missions through the Pontifical Missionary Societies, the aid granted to the poor of Rome through the Office of Papal Charities and the material support that the Holy Father gives directly to Bishops for the socio-pastoral action of the particular Churches.
With each of these acts, the Pope intends to show God's love to the suffering, while he thanks each benefactor for accepting the invitation to be a generous instrument and faithful witness of this love, incarnate in Christ, responding with concrete actions of fraternal solidarity to the appeals that come from all over the world.
Vatican City, 10 April 2001