A leading Catholic charity has pledged €5 million (£4.3 million) to support clergy serving those badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Priests and religious Sisters caring for vulnerable communities around the world, who have lost their sources of income due to the coronavirus crisis, will receive emergency funding from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Announcing the new initiative, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of ACN (International), said: “As a rising tide of human suffering related to COVID-19 makes itself felt around the world, the demand for social and spiritual care is soaring.
“It is our wish that this aid, made possible thanks to our benefactors, will help ease the burden on our courageous religious, who stand on the front lines, bringing God’s love and compassion to our suffering brothers and sisters.
“Now more than ever, the light and hope of the Lord is needed.”
The charity will help priests and religious who have lost their means of support, so that they can continue their vital ministries, including caring for the sick and elderly.
Many people in developing countries – already impoverished and with limited resources – rely on the local Church for basic social care, including health services.
ACN’s help will come in the form of subsistence aid for religious communities and Mass stipends for priests across the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.
The charity already provides assistance of this sort, but ACN’s new initiative will see this help massively stepped up.
Dr Heine-Geldern said: “We are united in prayer with the brave and dedicated priests and nuns who give their all to serve the world’s most vulnerable communities, and with all who are suffering around the world.
“This is a drop in the bucket in terms of what is and will be needed, but the Church plays a particularly vital spiritual and pastoral role in the day-to-day life of the world’s poorest Christian communities, and we must help strengthen the safety net it provides.
“I am so thankful to our donors, who, often despite their own pain and hardship, are reaching out to their fellow faithful.
“It is a beautiful gesture, one that is helping to keep the Faith alive.”