Vatican City, Jul 28, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis’ charitable project for Ukraine, started in 2016, has helped nearly one million people in the war-torn country, according to the auxiliary bishop of Leopoli.
Bishop Eduard Kava told Vatican News July 27 that in four years the project has used around 15 million euros ($17.5 million) to help an estimated 980,000 people, including the poor, the sick, the elderly, and families.
“The Pope for Ukraine” was started in June 2016, at Francis’ request, to help victims of conflict in the Eastern European country.
Kava said the project was now winding down, and the last program to finish would be the funding of medical equipment for a hospital under construction.
The bishop said the situation in Ukraine was not as tragic as it was four to five years ago, but there were many people still in need of help from the Church, particularly the elderly who receive small pensions and those with large families to care for.
“Even if the pope’s project ends, the Church will continue to provide help and to be close to the people,” Kava said. “There is not much money but we will be present and close…”
During his pontificate Pope Francis has expressed his concern for Ukraine and offered aid to the country, which has seen six years of armed conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed rebel forces.
After his Angelus prayer on July 26, Pope Francis said he was praying that a new ceasefire agreement reached last week concerning the Donbass region “will finally be put into practice.”
There have been more than 20 ceasefires declared since 2014 in the ongoing conflict between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military which has killed more than 10,000 people.
“While I thank you for this sign of goodwill aimed at restoring the much desired peace in that tormented region, I pray that what has been agreed will finally be put into practice,” the pope said.
In 2016, Pope Francis asked Catholic parishes in Europe to take up a special collection for humanitarian support in Ukraine. To the collected 12 million euros, the pope added six million euros of his own charitable aid for the country.
“The Pope for Ukraine” was set up to help distribute that aid. After the first year, it was managed by the Vatican nunciature in Ukraine and the local Church in cooperation with Christian charities and international agencies.
The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was the Vatican office charged with overseeing the project.
In 2019, Fr. Segundo Tejado Munoz, the dicastery’s undersecretary, told CNA that Pope Francis “wanted to help to tackle the humanitarian emergency with a prompt aid. This is the reason why money was directly transferred to Ukraine, where a technical committee selected the projects that could best respond to the emergency.”
The priest clarified that “projects were chosen despite any religious, confessional or ethnic belonging. Every kind of association was involved, and the priority was given to those able to access to th areas of conflict, and so able to more promptly provide responses.”
Tejado said that 6.7 million euros were put toward aid for those without heat and other necessities during the winter and 2.4 million euros were allocated to fixing medical infrastructures.
More than five million euros were used to deliver food and clothes and improve hygiene conditions in the areas of conflict. More than one million euros were given to programs offering psychological support, especially for children, women, ad victims of rape.
Tejado visited Ukraine with a Vatican delegation in November 2018. He said the situation in Ukraine was difficult.
“Social problems are similar to the ones of the rest of Europe: static economics, youth unemployment and poverty. This situation is expanded by the crisis,” he said.
He stressed, however, that “despite everything, there are many people committed and many associations working with and for hope, looking to the future to start again.”
“And the Church’s bodies and entities are trying to lend a hand.”
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Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it unto me – says the Lord.