A volunteers prepare bags containing free food to be distributed to the needy at a free food distribution point on June 6, 2020, in Geneva. (Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI/AFP)
Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, brought medicine and supplies to a Roma community settlement as a sign of support for those who are often forgotten during the coronavirus pandemic.
On June 13, Cardinal Turkson first stopped in Tor Bella Monaca, a town southwest of Rome, to meet with volunteers to assist several communities of Roma, who are sometimes referred to as Gypsies.
He gave the volunteers thousands of gloves, surgical masks and fever-reducing medicine from the Vatican pharmacy, the dicastery said.
Carlo Stasolla, president of the "July 21" charitable association, accompanied the cardinal during his visit to the Roma community outside Castel Romano. According to the dicastery, the association delivers 250-300 food packages to Roma families every week.
According to Vatican News, an estimated 600 people -- half of whom are children -- reside in the Castel Romano camp, living in campers or makeshift shacks. Water is delivered to the camp in a tanker and electricity is a scarce commodity for the residents. Only about 15% of the children go to school, so without reliable electricity and no internet, their education ended when schools were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Echoing the pope's affirmation that "no one must be left behind," Cardinal Turkson said the visit to the camp was meant as a gesture of Pope Francis' closeness to marginalized communities.
"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," the cardinal said.
"Let us remind ourselves that the integral development of the human person is connected to the care of creation: if we fail with one, all others will fail as well," he said.
The visit was among several initiatives promoted by the Vatican's coronavirus commission, which is led by Cardinal Turkson.
Pope Francis created the commission in mid-April to confront the challenges the world is facing in battling the coronavirus pandemic and what it will inevitably face in its aftermath.