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Vatican Launches Healthcare Initiative for Syrian Refugee Children

Pippa Ranger/DFID

Elise Harris - Catholic News Agency - published on 12/01/13

The Pontifical Council is collaborating with other Catholic organizations to create a new healthcare initiative aimed at providing medicine for Syrian refugee children.

The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has collaborated with other Catholic organizations in order to arrange a special mission which will provide basic medicines needed for the care of refugee children in Lebanon.

“The children need more specially medicine and schools, you know, because they have left the country and no schools or no medicine and many are very traumatized, so we have to help them psychologically,” Cardinal Robert Sarah told CNA in a Nov. 27 interview.

Cardinal Sarah, originally from French Guinea, is the president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” which was created by Pope Paul VI in 1971, and oversees the promotion of charity in wake of humanitarian emergencies, conflicts and natural disasters that affect man and his human, social and cultural wellbeing.

Vatican-run hospital Bambino Gesu, “Child Jesus,” and Caritas Lenanon have also helped in the organization of the mission, which begins in December and will last for three months.

A key goal of this mission, Cardinal Sarah noted, is to help the children to be “to be more serene, more capable to see the future with hope.”

The cardinal, who will travel to Lebanon along with the Secretary of “Cor Unum,” Bishop Giampietro Dal Toso, from Dec. 4th through the 8th, revealed that during his last visit to the country he encountered a 7 year old boy who had seen his father get killed in Syria.

“He was asking if really God exists, why He did permit my father to be killed?” the cardinal recalled, “So I said God exists, but we are very naughty, we killed your father but not God.”

“So I think we have to help the children to get out from the trauma they are living because children who is heavily traumatized by bombing, by violence, we have to help them to be more serene.”

“That is the main point,” he stressed, “the children must see the future” as the “time they have to build the society, to build the families… we must give them a comfortable atmosphere to see the future with serenity.”

During his upcoming trip, Cardinal Sarah revealed that he will be meeting with the bishops from both Syria and Lebanon in order “to find how to be more efficient” as a Church “in front of the many, many refugees in Lebanon and how to organize Caritas Syria,” which is “very weak” at the moment.

Caritas is an international confederation which began during the Second World War, and is composed of various Catholic relief, development and social service organizations which operates in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Until now, the cardinal revealed that “78 million” euros have been spent in aid for the fields of education, sanitation and care of the elderly.

In addition to this, he stated that Caritas is launching an “emergency appeal” for an additional 5 million in order to improve conditions of the continuous influx of refugees, as well as to aid the “many” who are currently working in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

With the current allotted funds for the mission in December, the cardinal noted that they will be able to help close to 3 to 4 thousand children by providing basic pediatric medicines.

However, during a Nov. 26 press conference announcing the three month mission, Cardinal Sarah expressed that as the time of Christmas nears, “we believe that the greatest present we can give, to help the children suffering because of the Syrian war, is to help them find their smile again.”

To help them “be able to continue living,” he explained, “supporting them in a growth which should not only be material but also and above all spiritual and human.”

Marta Jimenez-Ibanez contributed to this piece.

Originally published by Catholic News Agency on 29 November 2013.

Tags:
CharityHealth and WellnessParentingSyriaVatican
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