VATICAN - Other aid from the PSM Fund for the Covid emergency in Sao Tomé and Principe, Sierra Leone, Chad and Guinea

Tuesday, 2 June 2020 coronavirus   pontifical mission societies  


Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - The Emergency Fund set up by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) to support the Churches of mission countries facing the Covid-19 pandemic (see Fides, 6/4/2020), continues to examine the numerous requests that arrive and to send aid to the dioceses. We present brief notes on the situation they are experiencing and on the most urgent needs of some African dioceses to which subsidies have been granted.
The African diocese of Sao Tomé and Principe habitually lives in a situation of great poverty and the shortcomings have been further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic: wages are low and life is very expensive. The majority of the population lives thanks to tourism, but the closure of the airport due to the pandemic has resulted in the closure of hotels and restaurants, with repercussions for all related industries. The suspension of masses with the participation of the faithful forced the use of television and radio to broadcast celebrations and moments of prayer, which however entail high economic commitments for the local Church, which is unable to cover the expenses for ordinary management.
The diocese of Kenema, in Sierra Leone, includes a predominantly rural area, where most of the population depends on subsistence agriculture. Unemployment affects 70 percent of the population. Priests and religious communities depend on the offerings of the faithful for their livelihood, and now, with the closure of churches due to the pandemic, the situation is serious. One of the main emergencies is the lack of information on Covid-19: people do not know the virus, its consequences and how it spreads, therefore they do not follow the hygiene rules of prevention, first of all social distancing. Sierra Leone is a poor country with a very fragile health system, the possible increase in infections would cause a general collapse.
Most of the inhabitants of the diocese of Sarh, Chad, also obtain their livelihood from agriculture. Since March 21, the liturgical and pastoral activities of the diocese have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and the severe regulations issued by the government to deal with it. Schools have also been closed, as well as the two existing seminaries in Sarh. Diocesan and parochial Caritas are facing enormous difficulties, as it also coordinates health centers. Through radio programs the Church informs about the coronavirus and the precautionary rules to follow. Aid is urgently needed for diocesan Caritas, for the purchase of cereals, and for priests and religious communities who are deprived of all sustenance in this situation.
The diocese of Kankan, in Guinea, which is already experiencing a very difficult economic situation, sees with particular concern the consequences of the pandemic. Most of the population works hard to earn a living through small businesses, field jobs and jobs in the informal sector. The norms issued to combat the pandemic have led to an increase in the prices of food and transport, while the closure of churches and pastoral activities has had terrible effects, endangering the life of faith. In fact, communities need a regular presence of priests, men and women religious and pastoral workers who keep faith and commitment to evangelization alive. Despite their dedication and commitment, they must move from one place to another and very often find themselves exposed to every kind of risk, therefore they need assistance to be able to continue their mission. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 2/6/2020)