(Source: CD/Alessandro Guarasci, Vatican News)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, visited a settlement just outside of the gates of Rome on Saturday evening.

About 600 people live in the camp Polo ex Fienile in Tor Bella Monaca. Half of them are minors. Living conditions in the camp are difficult.

The cardinal himself distributed masks, gloves and medicine, which he characterised as a demonstration of “support for all who are living in situations of suffering and vulnerability and who are often forgotten”.

His visit was also meant to make Pope Francis’s presence felt. While the cardinal was there, he met with the families, the mothers and the children who call the camp home.

Gloves, masks, medicine

The COVID-19 lockdown has not stopped the Church’s outreach to those in difficulty.

It has, however, made the activity of both its organisations and its volunteers much more difficult. The Vatican Pharmacy donated the 3,000 vinyl gloves, 6,000 surgical masks, 200 washable fabric masks, and 500 packets of fever-reducing medicine. It did so as a partner of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission which is directed by the Dicastery and which Cardinal Turkson heads.

These items are absolutely necessary as initial protocol has begun to relax as Italy gradually moves out of the crisis.

Other associations who assist those living in the camp on an ongoing basis provided 260 packages of basic necessities geared especially toward babies aged 0-3.

Gratitude to volunteers and others

Cardinal Turkson first met with volunteers of the Educational and Cultural Development Centre Ex Fienile.

He then met with the bishop of the region, Gianpiero Palmieri, other priests who direct charitable organisations serving those living in the settlement, and Dr. Maria Rosaria Giampaolo of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Hospital.

Carlo Stasolla, president of the charitable organisation July 21 Association, was on hand to tell the cardinal about the conditions in the camp and about the many other people he can count on to help the population integrate into society at large. The cardinal’s visit was organized by Stasolla. His organisation dedicates its services primarily to the Roma and Sinti populations living near Rome.

Every week his association delivers over 250 packets, thanks to donations from private individuals.

“No one must be left behind”

“As Pope Francis often repeats, no one must be left behind”, Cardinal Turkson said.

“We are here to give witness to his support for all who are living in situations of suffering and vulnerability and who are often forgotten, especially during the period of this health, social and economic crisis.

“Let’s remind ourselves that the integral development of the human person is connected with the care of creation: if we fail with one, all the others will fail as well”.

Health situation in the Alban Hills

In the camp situated in the Alban Hills, water arrives by tankers. Even the electric voltage does not cover their needs. Only 15% of the children attend school regularly.

With the explosion of COVID-19, distance learning for these children is nearly impossible due to the absence of computers and internet connections. They live in dilapidated campers and containers that resemble shacks. Entering their homes, the cardinal met with two mothers and their children.

Many of those living here escaped the war in Bosnia. Although they are refugees, they lack official refugee status.

Medical personnel from the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome have been providing them with healthcare. They have cared for about 700 children of itinerant peoples throughout Rome in a camper named “Don’t forget about me”.

More on Novena on the Vatican’s response to COVID-19:

Vatican pleads for universal access to COVID vaccine: “There can’t be a area that is privileged and another that suffers because it is poor”

Vatican redoubles efforts for post-COVID-19 future “that completely integrates the human being in its dignity”

Pope sets up 1 million euro relief fund for workers in Rome struggling due to pandemic

Vatican dicastery reminds world on COVID-19: “A truly healthy recovery means seeing that ‘everything is connected’”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.