With Sri Lanka’s priests and Sisters struggling to survive, a Catholic charity has offered a vital lifeline so that they can continue their essential ministry during the country’s state of emergency.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is providing more than £390,000 in vital support for priests and religious who are struggling during Sri Lanka’s unprecedented economic crisis.
The package consists of Mass stipends – which provide priests with a basic income – and subsistence aid for catechists, Sisters and other members of religious orders carrying out essential pastoral work.
Bishop Valence Mendis of Kandy, who is also Apostolic Administrator of Chilaw, told ACN that the local Church is struggling to cover its own costs – and finding it hard to relieve the suffering of everyone turning to it for help.
He said: “People can afford virtually nothing. Our priests and religious are badly affected by the crisis.”
The country has been hit hard by the rising price of importing crucial goods and mounting debt caused by massive international borrowing made worse by a fall in the price of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar.
Bishop Mendia said: “The economic situation in the country is very serious. Many people are suffering lack of medicine or food.
“There are very long queues, miles and miles of people trying to buy fuel, gas, powdered milk, sugar, rice, medicine…
“A number of people have died in these queues while waiting to buy basic goods.”
He added: “Many people have lost their jobs, and prices have risen astronomically.”
With inflation having soared above 54 percent last month, food prices are now 80 percent higher than this time last year.
Sri Lanka’s financial crisis has been deepened by corruption, lack of fuel, and the loss of tourist income caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
During the pandemic, ACN supported the country’s Church with an emergency programme for the dioceses.
Ranil Wickremesinghe – who was made interim president last Friday (15th July) after his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country following protests over the economic crisis – declared a state of emergency last night (17th July).
The state of emergency is designed to tackle social unrest stemming from the growing economic crisis.