Vatican COVID-19 Commission to focus on food, ecology and charity

Created by Pope Francis, the commission is linked to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. It has a year to study, suggest and design new ways of social life and economic models. Greater agricultural production is needed. Because of coronavirus outbreak, 350 million children do not even get one meal a day. Caritas is helping more than 7.8 million people in 14 countries. Sanctions against Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, and Venezuela should be dropped whilst the debt of poor countries should be cancelled. Military spending should be diverted to food production.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – A press conference was held this morning in the Vatican on ‘COVID-19, food crisis and integral ecology: the action of the Church’. Card Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was present, as were the Dicastery Secretary Mgr Bruno Marie Duffé, his Deputy Fr Augusto Zampini-Davies, and the General Secretary of Caritas Internationalis Aloysius John.

The Dicastery established a Vatican COVID-19 Commission to address the challenges created by the pandemic afflicting the planet. Its action will focus on three areas to prepare the future of the world: food, since hunger will increase for hundreds of millions of people; integral ecology, to come up with new economic models that are more respectful of human health and the environment; and charity for the marginalised through greater inclusiveness and solidarity.

In his introduction, Card Turkson highlighted how the pandemic has affected every aspect of human life and culture. The commission, created by Pope Francis, will rely on the help of other Vatican dicasteries and will last for at least a year.

Archbishop Duffé stressed that the pandemic revealed the "vulnerability" of every aspect of life: physical, ideological, planning, economic. For this reason, it is necessary to think and act in "solidarity" by imagining "new economic models" that connect the “health, ecological, economic and social" aspects of the current crisis in order to find new solutions.

Fr Augusto Zampini-Davies spoke about hunger, a problem that already afflicts more than 800 million people. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, 350 million children are now going hungry because they no longer go to school where they received their one meal a day.

In his view, the problem of food will get worse in the future as agricultural production and distribution break down. He warns that food “Insecurity will lead to violence and more conflicts, which will in turn, [will] cause more poverty.” Hence, it is necessary to encourage improvements in farming and “divert funds from weapons to food” production.

In his address Aloysius John spoke about how Caritas Internationalis reacted to increased needs generated by the coronavirus outbreak. The response includes providing food, distributing sanitary and health products, and helping people pay their rent.

Currently, Caritas is helping more than 7.8 million people in 14 countries, including Ecuador, India, Palestine, Bangladesh, Lebanon and Burkina Faso. Other projects are under study to provide support to an additional 840,000 people in difficulty.

For Aloysius John, the international community should also remove economic sanctions from countries like Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, and Venezuela so that aid can reach their populations. Likewise, the debt of the world’s poorest countries should be scrapped or at least the interest they have to pay this year should be cancelled. Donations to needy countries should continue and not be used for other purposes.