Vatican Launches Health-Care Initiative for Syrian Refugee Children

The president and secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum will travel to Lebanon Dec. 4-8 to seek additional ways of assisting victims.

(photo: Facebook/CaritasLebanonMigrantCenter)

VATICAN CITY — The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has collaborated with other Catholic organizations in order to arrange a special mission that will provide basic medicines needed for the care of refugee children in Lebanon.

“The children need more specially medicine and schools, you know, because they have left the country, and [there are] no schools or no medicine, and many are very traumatized, so we have to help them psychologically,” Cardinal Robert Sarah told CNA in a Nov. 27 interview.

Cardinal Sarah, originally from French Guinea, is the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which was created by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and oversees the promotion of charity in the wake of humanitarian emergencies, conflicts and natural disasters that affect man and his human, social and cultural well-being.

The Vatican-run children’s hospital Bambino Gesu (“Child Jesus”) and Caritas Lebanon have also helped in the organization of the mission, which begins in December and will last for three months.

A key goal of this mission, Cardinal Sarah noted, is to help the children “to be more serene, more capable to see the future with hope.”

The cardinal, who will travel to Lebanon, along with the secretary of Cor Unum, Bishop Giampietro Dal Toso, Dec. 4-8, revealed that, during his last visit to the country, he encountered a 7-year-old boy who had seen his father get killed in Syria.

“He was asking, ‘If really God exists, why he did permit my father to be killed?’” the cardinal recalled. “So I said, ‘God exists, but we [those who reject God] are very naughty; we [those who reject God] killed your father, but not God.’”

“So I think we have to help the children to get out from the trauma they are living, because children are heavily traumatized by bombing, by violence; we have to help them to be more serene.”

“That is the main point,” he stressed. “The children must see the future” as the “time they have to build the society, to build the families. … We must give them a comfortable atmosphere to see the future with serenity.”

During his upcoming trip, Cardinal Sarah revealed that he will be meeting with the bishops from both Syria and Lebanon in order “to find how to be more efficient” as a Church “in front of the many, many refugees in Lebanon and how to organize Caritas Syria,” which is “very weak” at the moment.

Until now, the cardinal disclosed, 78 million euros have been spent in aid for the fields of education, sanitation and care of the elderly.

In addition to this, he stated that Caritas is launching an “emergency appeal” for an additional 5 million euros in order to improve conditions of the continuous influx of refugees, as well as to aid the “many” who are currently working in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

Caritas is an international confederation that began during the Second World War and is composed of various Catholic relief, development and social-service organizations that operate in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

With the current allotted funds for the mission in December, the cardinal noted that they should be able to help provide basic pediatric medicines to 3,000 to 4,000 children.

However, during a Nov. 26 press conference announcing the three-month mission, Cardinal Sarah said that, as the time of Christmas nears, “we believe that the greatest present we can give, to help the children suffering because of the Syrian war, is to help them find their smiles again.”

To help them “be able to continue living,” he explained, “supporting them in a growth which should not only be material, but also and above all spiritual and human.”