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The United States Agency for International Development has made a grant of $900,000 to two Catholic organizations in Italy to provide humanitarian assistance to those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Callista Gingrich, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, announced the grant Thursday during a virtual news conference. Gingrich said the funds will go to the Community of Sant’Egidio and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and support a project they began collaborating on in July.
“Sant’Egidio and UISG have provided essential items such as food, clothing, and personal protection equipment to the homeless, the elderly, and other at-risk people,” Gingrich said. “They have also provided counseling services and virtual medical assessments.”
In April, the USAID announced it would support, supplement, and expand the work of international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and faith-based groups that are responding directly to the pandemic in Italy and mitigating its social and community impact.
Gingrich this week called Sant’Egidio and UISG “two of the finest examples of faith-based organizations that serve some of the most vulnerable populations around the world.” Faith-based organizations, she continued, “serve as lifelines for communities experiencing unprecedented hardships and as advocates for the oppressed.”
The ambassador said that the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the Community of Sant’Egidio have enjoyed a long and productive relationship. “Together we have mediated conflicts, advanced interfaith dialogue, and provided humanitarian assistance to those most in need,” she said. “Sant’Egidio is recognized around the world for its efforts to resolve conflict, promote peace, and alleviate poverty through its vast international network.”
The UISG is also a “cherished partner of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See,” Gingrich continued, saying that over the years, the mission has worked with Loretto Sr. Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the union of superiors general of women’s orders, and her staff to combat human trafficking, promote interreligious dialogue, and “advance the courageous work of women religious.”
Mauro Garofalo, international relations officer for the Community of Sant’Egidio, said the USAID grant will allow the organization to “broaden our range of action to benefit those who have suffered the most from the social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” according to Catholic News Service.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the centrality of networks of closeness and solidarity, which are even more essential today to combat the loneliness and isolation of so many people,” Garofalo said.
Sr. Patricia Murray pointed out that while many religious women have helped to distribute food and supplies, as well as assist in hospitals during the pandemic, many sisters are “among the most vulnerable because of their age and fragile health.”
“They draw on their faith in Christ and they also draw on the goodness of others to help them during this difficult time,” she said, according to the CNS report. “They’re not living in some protected situation. They are living this current reality fully. Many elderly sisters have lived in isolation during this time even within their religious communities, often separated from those who are in active ministry and who work outside the community and must self-isolate when they return home,” she said.