As Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis has started a fund with 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to help those in the Diocese of Rome who are facing economic difficulty because of the coronavirus.
In a June 8 letter to Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, Rome’s vicar general, Pope Francis said: “there are many fathers and mothers of a family who are fighting with difficulty to be able to set the table for their children and to guarantee there will be the minimum needed.”
“As Bishop of Rome, I decided to institute in the diocese, the ‘Jesus the Divine Worker’ Fund, to recall the dignity of work…” he said.
The 1 million euros will go to the Diocese of Rome’s charitable organisation, Caritas, and is intended to help those who are most gravely impacted economically because of the coronavirus and the measures put in place to control its spread. Especially, the pope said, the fund is for those who are likely to be excluded from institutional sources of support.
In his letter, Pope Francis said he wanted Rome’s return to “normality” after the coronavirus pandemic to be marked by “a work which sees us united, above all in facing the suffering of those who are the most marginalised.”
“The Church in our city is present and accompanies the weak with her charity, and is ready to collaborate with the city’s institutions and with all the social and economic realities,” he stated.
The pope said it was very close to his heart to protect the dignity of those hit hardest by the effects of the pandemic. He referenced in particular: seasonal, day, and hourly labourers, people with short-term contracts, interns, domestic workers, small business owners, and the self-employed.
Before the pandemic, Italy’s overall unemployment rate was just under 10%. In the months of March and April, Italy saw its number of jobs drop by 400,000 and at the end of April, according to ANSA, 4.7 million people filed requests for the country’s COVID-19 bonus, a 600 euro-per-month stipend for self-employed Italians who lost their source of income due to the coronavirus.
“This time of suffering we are living because of the pandemic, besides sowing sorrow and worry, is seriously weakening the social fabric of our city,” the pope underlined.
“We see that many people are asking for help, and it seems that ‘the five loaves of bread and two fish’ are not enough. Yet, I cannot but notice with joy the signs of life of our Church in Rome and of the whole city.”
He encouraged Romans to give to the new fund and to share generously with their neighbours, not just from their “excess,” adding that he would like to see the city grow in the “solidarity of next door.”
He also invited the priests of Rome diocese to be the first to participate and to be enthusiastic supporters of sharing in their communities.
“May the Lord bless our diocesan community and the whole city. I invoke on all the strength and consolation and protection of Mary Salus Populi Romani,” he wrote as he closed his letter.