Catholic projects aid poor and elderly in India

Two initiatives seek to provide health cover to aging parishioners across country
Catholic projects aid poor and elderly in India

Cardinal George Alencherry, center, at the launch of two projects aimed to assist the poor and elderly among India's parishes. (Photo courtesy of the Catholic Health Association of India)

Providing health insurance for the poor and improving care for the elderly in parishes across India are the goals of two projects launched by the Catholic Health Association of India.

"Pope Francis exhorts all of us to contemplate and practice mercy like Jesus Christ," said K P Chackappan, the association's national coordinator.

"We have launched two projects to facilitate the spirit of compassionate care toward poor families and elderly in our parishes and institutions," he said.

The association's Project Santhana will make it possible for poor parishioners to take out health cover worth 100,000 rupees ($1,470). They would need to pay a one-time premium of 3,500 rupees to receive the cover. At least 10 families from each parish participating in the project will be covered by the insurance.

The second initiative, Project Shraddha, will encourage young Catholics to organize health camps for elderly parishioners who live alone. Housebound senior citizens will also be provided with regular health check ups in the comfort of their own homes.

As part of the project, Chackappan said parish nuns will work with lay medical and health care professionals to provide the elderly with clinic and referral services after Sunday Mass.

"These are mutually inspiring acts of mercy," Chackappan said. "It will motivate and encourage others to do good for society."

Cardinal George Alencherry launched the projects Feb. 11, the world day of the sick. All parishes throughout India are expected to participate.

Chackappan said that the projects will be ongoing through the Year of Mercy that ends in November 2016 but they could be extended.

Founded in 1943, the Catholic Health Association of India is the largest non-profit organization in the country's health sector.

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