A World Food Program worker arranges relief packages at a warehouse in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 14, 2020, made available to the United Nations for humanitarian aid to combat COVID-19. (Credit: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters via CNS.)
ROME — With a North American charity as its main collaborator, the Congregation for Eastern Churches’ COVID-19 emergency fund distributed more than $11.7 million in aid, including food and hospital ventilators in 21 countries where members of the Eastern Catholic churches live.
The congregation Dec. 22 released a dossier on the projects receiving aid since the emergency fund was announced in April. The lead agencies for the special fund are the New York-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Pontifical Mission for Palestine.
The emergency fund received money and goods from Catholic charities and bishops’ conferences that regularly support projects identified by the congregation. Those included CNEWA, but also the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Italian bishops’ conference, Caritas Internationalis, Aid to the Church in Need, the German bishops’ Renovabis and other Catholic charities in Germany and Switzerland.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the congregation, gave the dossier to Pope Francis Dec. 21.
“It’s a sign of hope at this terrible time,” the cardinal told Vatican News Dec. 22. “It was an effort by the congregation and all the agencies that are helping our churches at this time. We’re talking about an authentic harmony, a synergy, an exceptional unity by these organizations with one certainty: together we can survive this situation.”
The largest amount of money, more than 3.4 million euros ($4.1 million) went to people and institutions in the Holy Land — Israel, the Palestinian territories, Gaza, Jordan and Cyprus — and included the provision of ventilators, COVID-19 tests and other supplies to Catholic hospitals, scholarships to help children attend Catholic schools and direct food aid for hundreds of families.
The next countries on the list were Syria, India, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Iraq. The aid distributed included rice, sugar, thermometers, face masks and other vital supplies. The fund also helped some dioceses to purchase the equipment needed to broadcast or livestream liturgies and spiritual programming.
Aid also went to Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Egypt, Eritrea, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey and Ukraine.