(Source: MJ/Linda Bordoni, Vatican News)

Caritas Internationalis is calling on the movers and shakers of the world to listen to Pope Francis’s appeal for a global ceasefire at a time in which the suffering of millions has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

And looking to the G20 Finance Ministers Summit set for this weekend to discuss the economic calamity stemming from the pandemic, the Church’s relief agency is asking for much more than debt suspension for the world’s poorest countries.

In April, the World Bank and the G20 agreed to endorse the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) to stave off the pandemic’s impact on the world’s most vulnerable.

Echoing the Pope’s call for debt reduction or annulment in the face of the unprecedented crisis, Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Aloysius John said the organisation has made a clear request to the Group of 20 Finance Ministers to take concrete action and cancel debts to avert a catastrophe for hundreds of millions of people.

Cardinal Tagle: “We cannot sit by and watch”

John’s call came at the presentation of Caritas Internationalis’ annual report which takes stock of the current challenges – both from a healthcare and an economic perspective – but looks to the future in the post-COVID-19 world.

Welcoming participants at the press conference, Caritas Internationalis President, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, also pointed to the consequences of the economic sanctions in the Middle East, noting that not only do they not result in solutions but, he said, they affect the poorest and most vulnerable.

“We cannot sit by and watch the deteriorating living conditions of people in Lebanon, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries”, Tagle denounced.

“The poorest are victims of economic sanctions and the threat of COVID-19 makes their difficult lives even more precarious. The international debt of the poorest countries in Africa, parts of Latin America and Asia has had important social and economic consequences”, the cardinal insisted.

Looking to the future in a post-COVID-19 world

But Secretary-General John was firm in asserting that Caritas – which has mobilised more than 12 million euros thanks to the work of its extensive network across the globe, helping up to 16 million people so far during the pandemic – is gearing up for a new start: “a new beginning for the post-COVID-19 world.”

He said vital aid has reached desperate people in Bangladesh and Myanmar, in Brazil, Venezuela and the Central African Republic, as well as in Lebanon, a country that hosts millions of Syrian refugees and migrant workers, and where an economic and humanitarian crisis is steadily spiralling into catastrophe as the world looks the other way.

“The Caritas Confederation is a living organism that is changing and adapting every day”, John said, reasserting its promise to continue to defend, serve and accompany the poor.  

Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, President of Caritas South Africa, and Rita Rhayem, Director of Caritas Lebanon, also brought their testimonies and perspectives to the table, highlighting the role of the Church in bringing not only much-needed material relief but also emotional and psychological comfort and the light of hope and faith. 

Caritas, they all reasserted, may be changing and morphing in changing times, but it is ever more committed in its mission to show us how to apply “the globalisation of solidarity”.

More stories on Novena on Church calls for a global COVID-19 ceasefire:

Vatican proposes on COVID-19 recovery: “What if instead of an arms race we ‘race’ towards food, health and work security?”

5/7: Angelus: Pope calls on world to implement “global and immediate” ceasefire “effectively and promptly”

More on calls for sovereign debt relief:

Holy See renews plea for “speedy and substantive” debt relief for developing nations


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.