VATICAN CITY — Claiming to promote “even stronger ties” between dioceses in Latin America and the Caribbean and the poorest people in their territories, Pope Francis has ordered changes to the structure of a foundation established by Saint John Paul II 30 years ago.
The pope met with board members of the Populorum Progressio Foundation for Latin America and the Caribbean on September 16, the same day the Vatican announced it was abolishing the foundation and replacing it with the Populorum Progressio Fund. .
In its 30 years of operation, the foundation has distributed more than $40 million to projects in rural areas of the region. With individual grants under $25,000, the foundation has focused on health care, housing, clean water, community infrastructure, agricultural development, small business start-ups, and Catholic education. in faith.
The goals will remain the same, Pope Francis told the council, but he had entrusted the Latin American council of bishops, commonly known as CELAM, with the responsibility of helping to study grant applications and monitoring the implementation of projects. .
The president of the foundation had been the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the administrative headquarters were in the Vatican, although the operational center was in Bogota, Colombia, where CELAM is based.
While the main funding for the projects has been provided by the Italian bishops’ conference and more recently by the US-based Cross Catholic Outreach, dioceses in Latin America and the Caribbean have also contributed.
Thanking everyone involved in the foundation over the past 30 years, Pope Francis said it “is now changing shape but – I want to stress this – maintains its mission and remains a work of the Pope’s charity.”
“Many families in Latin America and the Caribbean are surviving in inhumane conditions,” he said. “As we walk the synodal path, we must grow as a ‘Samaritan’ church that comforts, engages and bends down to touch the wounds of the suffering flesh of Christ in the people.”
Jesus “wanted to identify himself with the poorest and most marginalized, and he offers us his merciful presence in them,” the pope said.
“Our hope is that these solidarity initiatives show that change is possible, that reality is not blocked,” he said. “If they are undertaken with wisdom and consistency, they will be a sign which we hope will motivate many.”
But, said the pope, with the reform of the Roman Curia, “there is a need to promote closer ties with local churches in order to make more effective programs of integral development in the most neglected indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. , plunged into misery”. and lowering.”
“The poor should not be seen as recipients of charity,” he said, but as partners in discerning needs and determining where funds should go.
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