(Source: CD/Vatican News)

The Pope continues to make his heartfelt appeal for generosity and solidarity for communities and countries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic by personally leading the way through concrete acts of closeness and affection.

This he carries out through the Office of Papal Charities, a department of the Holy See headed by the Apostolic Almoner, or papal almsgiver, Polish cardinal Konrad Krajewski.

In the latest move, the Pope’s charity is being directed to Brazil, the cardinal said in a statement released by the Holy See Press Office on Monday.

18 Draeger intensive care ventilators and 6 portable Fuji ultrasound scanners are being shipped to needy hospitals in Brazil.

Hope Association

This, Cardinal Krajewski says, has been made possible through the generous commitment of Hope Association, an Italy-based non-profit group that helps needy children and communities.

Specialised in humanitarian projects in health and education, Hope Association finds ways to obtain high-tech life-saving medical equipment through donors and arranges for their shipping and installation in hospitals.

Helping the poorest and neediest

These medical devices will be delivered to hospitals in Brazil chosen by the Apostolic Nunciature, so that “this gesture of Christian solidarity and charity can really help the poorest and neediest people.”

On several occasions, the Office of Papal Charities has mobilised medical material and equipment to be donated to many health facilities in situations of emergency and poverty around the world, so that many lives may be saved. 

After the United States, Brazil has the world’s worst coronavirus scenario, reporting more than 3.3 million cases and close to 108,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Francis reminds religious that “joy can only be found in the gift of oneself to others”

In the meantime, the Pope has urged Brazil’s consecrated men and women to fight worldly tendencies and “to give priority to prayer” beccause “the person who keeps his or her eyes fixed on Jesus learns to live in order to serve.”

The pontiff made this exhortation in a message to Brazil’s religious as they observe the first Week of Consecrated Religious Life, August 16 to 22.

In his message – addressed to Sister Maria Inês Vieira Ribeiro, the national president of the Conference of the Religious of Brazil (CRB) – the Pope expresses his joy at the initiative which “aims to promote and renew the mission” of each consecrated religious in the Land of the Holy Cross, as the first explorers of the unknown territory called it.  

Joy in the gift of self

The Holy Father, himself a Jesuit, reminds them that the vocation of a religious has its origin in the experience of knowing that one is loved by God.

Life itself, he explains, is the fruit of the loving call of God, who accompanies us along our journey and is aware of our anxious longing for love and happiness and calls us to joy.

This joy, the Pope stresses, “can only be found in the gift of oneself to others.”

Prayer helps fix gaze on Jesus

In today’s society, which is undergoing epochal changes, the Pope urges the religious to “be vigilant in order to avoid the temptation to have a worldly outlook, which prevents us from seeing God’s grace as the protagonist of life and leads us to go out in search of whichever substitute.”

The best antidote against such a temptation, the Pope says, is to give priority to prayer in the midst of all our activities.

A person who keeps his gaze fixed on Jesus learns to live and serve, recalling that he or she is loved.

Our first love

Pope Francis thus invites Brazil’s religious men and women to ask themselves: “Is Jesus truly our first and only love, as we proposed when we professed our vows?” 

Only this way, the Holy Father says, “will we be able to truly and mercifully love each person we meet on our journey.”

Only by learning from Jesus what love is will we know how to love, the Pope stresses.

Ever onward

Consecrated religious present in Rome participated in the recitation of the Angelus with Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square on Sunday.

He singled them out, saying:

“In particular, I greet the Brazilian men and women religious present here in Rome – with so many flags – these religious are following spiritually the First National Week of Consecrated Life being celebrated in Brazil. Happy week of consecrated life. Ever onward!”

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