UKRAINE – Pope’s initiative highlights humanitarian crisis
Following the extraordinary collection for Ukraine launched by Pope Francis, Mgr Giampietro Dal Toso was sent to Ukraine to assess the situation. Mgr Dal Toso is the Secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum which has been entrusted by the Pope to deliver the money collected to those in need.
While he was in Kiev, Mgr Dal Toso met with top officials of the Greek Catholic and Latin Church in Ukraine and representatives of other Christian denominations, including the Russian Patriarchate. He also had meetings with officials of the United Nations and visited a center that hosts some 150 displaced persons.
According to Mgr Dal Toso, “There is a humanitarian side in the Ukraine crisis. This side is not very much considered, but it is the most painful one.” The major success of the Pope’s initiative, he said, is the fact that “now the crisis in Ukraine is in the spotlight again. The Pope succeeded in making the public aware of the fact that there is a conflict at the heart of Europe, which has produced a number of internally displaced persons that is the same or even more than the number of refugees coming from the Middle East to Europe.”
“I was mostly shocked by the fact that these people had a regular life before: they are middle class people, they had a house, a job and a dignified life. Suddenly, they had to leave everything,” he said and added, “it is terrible that there is no future for most of them. None of them know how long they will be refugees. There are sometimes four people in one room, and they know nothing about what is going to become of them tomorrow.”
“Pope Francis has shed light on a dramatic humanitarian crisis” stated the Monsignor. 3 million people are living in disadvantaged conditions and there are 1.5 million internally displaced persons, mostly settled in the areas surrounding the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, but also in Kiev, the capital. There are places which only have electricity for two hours per day and there is no gas heating. Msgr. Dal Toso said “I asked some of them: what is your hope? They answered me: we hope to go back home.”
Although Mgr Dal Toso acknowledged the aid sent by the Church through the extraordinary collection cannot resolve the problems in Ukraine, “it is however important…this way, the Church can reach out to so many people in need.”
“The Pope’s initiative also showed what the Church wants,” he said. “The Church has no interest in power. It has interest in showing God’s freely-given love. In addition, this is also an ecumenical initiative, which implies a cooperation among Catholic Churches and other Christian denominations, like the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and also the Moscow Patriarchate.”
The secretary of the Pontifical Council said that “a technical committee will be established. This committee will be based in Ukraine, and will manage and deliver the aid.”
The money from the worldwide Special Collection for Ukraine will be delivered from the parishes to the bishops, and then on to the Holy See. Hence the total amount of money collected will not be known for three months.
Mgr Dal Toso wanted to specify that “although the channels through which we will deliver aid will be Catholic associations and labels, every person in need will benefit from the aid, regardless of their religious, cultural or ethnic background.”