Catholic Church receives $1.3 million donation to fight poverty amid pandemic

CNA Staff, Jun 9, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The Catholic Church in England and Wales has received a 1 million pound ($1.3 million) donation to fight poverty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The money was donated by the Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation, founded by the late billionaire businessman Albert Gubay, who made a pact with God in his youth that if he became rich he would give half his money to the Church.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said June 9: “All of this remarkable gift will be spent on the immediate relief of hardship, and, I stress, its effects will be felt across the whole of England and Wales.”

Gubay, who died in 2016, amassed his fortune through Kwik Save, a British convenience store chain, Total Fitness, a chain of gyms, and property investments. Upon his death, his charitable foundation, which is based in the Isle of Man, was worth about 700 million pounds ($890 million).

Nichols said the foundation had contacted him May 20 with the “startling news” that it would make an “immediate outright donation of £1 million” to the Church for poverty relief.

“I was taken aback by the sheer generosity of this single payment and agreed to cooperate in the distribution of this grant to Catholic charities,” he said.

After consulting with the other metropolitan archbishops of England and Wales, the cardinal invited charities to apply for emergency funding by May 31, which should be spent on the poor by the end of September.

Thirty-eight applicants applied for grants totalling more than £2 million.

The $1.3 million donation will be split into three parts with more than $508,000 going to local food banks and the direct provision of food, $317,000 to expand food voucher programs and more than $425,000 for immediate financial support for the needy.

Charities receiving money will compile reports on the impact of the funds by the end of October.

Food banks have reported unprecedented levels of demand since the government imposed a lockdown in the U.K. in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The Trussell Trust, a leading food bank network, said that in the week after after the lockdown was introduced in March, it distributed 50,000 food parcels, almost twice as many as usual.

Albert Gubay was born in 1928 in the Welsh seaside resort of Rhyl to an Iraqi Jewish father and Irish Catholic mother.

In a 2011 interview with the BBC, he said that he turned to God while struggling to make ends meet as a young businessman.

“One Saturday, I didn’t know where the next penny was coming from and I lay on my bed and I had this conversation with God,” he recalled.

“I said: ‘God, help me and whatever I make over the years of my life, when I die, half will go to the Church.’”

In 2011, Nichols presented Gubay with a papal knighthood, conferred by Pope Benedict XVI, for his charitable work.

In his June 9 statement, Nichols said: “I wish to express heartfelt thanks to the Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation for this exceptional and magnificent donation to such important work. In particular, I thank the Gubay family for their leadership in this remarkable gift which is in addition to the regular charitable giving of the foundation.”

“I do so, not only on behalf of every bishop in England and Wales for the confidence it shows in the effectiveness of the charitable work of our Catholic charities, but much more importantly, on behalf of all those whose hardship will be alleviated by this outstanding generosity.”

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