Vatican congregation to send ventilators to Syria and Holy Land

A Vatican Congregation has announced that it is sending medical supplies to Syria and the Holy Land as the coronavirus spreads across the Middle East. 

The Congregation for the Oriental Churches said April 18 it was donating 10 ventilators to Syria and three to St Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem, as well as diagnostic kits to Gaza and funds to the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem. 

The Congregation explained that the donations would be made in the name of Pope Francis through a new emergency fund called Fondo Emergenza CEC.

In a statement issued Saturday, the Congregation, which is responsible for relations between the Vatican and the 23 Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, said it had created the fund in response to the pope’s appeal to care for the poor affected by COVID-19. 

The Congregation noted that it was making the announcement as many Eastern Christians prepare to celebrate Easter and Latin-rite Catholics mark Divine Mercy Sunday.

It said it would be offering support to those affected by the pandemic in collaboration with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, and the Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Oriental Churches (ROACO).

It added that it would also draw on the annual collection for the Holy Land, which normally takes place on Good Friday but was postponed this year until September 13 because of the coronavirus. 

The Congregation said it had “decided immediately to guarantee” the gifts of ventilators and diagnostic kits at the suggestion of local apostolic nunciatures.

“Other suggestions coming from other countries are being studied,” it said.

The congregation insisted that, despite economic uncertainty, it would continue to make its annual contributions to schools and Catholic universities, as well as to displaced people in Syria and Iraq, and refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

Commentators have described coronavirus as a ticking time-bomb for the Middle East, parts of which are suffering from war and poverty, and have a weak medical infrastructure.  

The Syrian government reported the first coronavirus case March 23. According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, 38 people in the country have tested positive for coronavirus and two have died as of April 18.

The Congregation for the Oriental Churches’ statement concluded: “Let us all pray to God the Father to free us from the evils afflicting humanity, as we join in acts of genuine solidarity and brotherly love.”