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Vatican Pontifical CouncilEvery other year, the Vatican Pontifical Council is held in Vatican City for the purpose of improving human health and well-being. From May 6-8, 2021, the Cura Foundation and the Science and Faith Foundation joined the Pope, influential scientists, Christian leaders, humanitarians, ethicists and lawmakers to discuss recent advances in technology and medical science that will make for a better world.

The Cura Foundation and the Science and Faith Foundation seek to improve global health by partnering with doctors and researchers who are nearing medical breakthroughs. At this year’s Vatican Pontifical Council, they and other foundations took center stage. The Cura Foundation’s mottos, “unite to prevent,” and “unite to cure,” described the purpose of the discussions. Here are five promising developments from the Council.

Top 5 Highlights of the Vatican Pontifical Council

  1. The solution to global health spending according to Dr. Mark McClellan, director of Duke University’s Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy. Recalling the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. McClellan explained why the U.S. and other wealthy countries need to increase their spending on aid for developing countries. He explained that meeting countries on their level will mean considering digital care, care teams, medicine availability and more. In addition, prioritizing healthcare equality will not just benefit developing countries, but wealthy countries as well. The U.S. will see minorities such as Black and Native people, who statistically earn less money than whites, gain more equality. Focusing on health equality for the world will lead to more open-minded communities and better quality of life for minorities.
  2. Pope Francis explains the union of mind, body, and soul. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the union of the mind, body and soul is essential. Many factors can cause division between them, but unity encourages intellect and progress. Interdisciplinary research that works toward uniting mind, body and soul is the reason various leaders and initiators have been able to improve global health as they have.
  3. Sanford Health shares its findings on regenerative medicine. Many retired athletes and elderly people experience chronic joint pain that seems untreatable. However, Sanford Health explained that regenerative medicine can be useful in combating chronic pain. Regenerative medicine helps to speed the healing process and can especially aid practitioners in orthopedics. If regenerative medicine is integrated into care more widely, the physical quality of life will improve greatly for many people worldwide.
  4. Rick Anderson advocates for digital technologies. According to the president of DarioHealth, Rick Anderson, digital technologies are particularly beneficial for those with chronic diseases since they offer a wide variety of treatment options. For example, people with diabetes can use digital devices to test their blood sugar. Getting these devices to people who need them worldwide is a challenge, however. Anderson says the aid needed most in this scenario is internet access. Even low-speed internet can let people order what they need.
  5. New treatments for rare diseases. Dr. Michael Yeaman of UCLA has been studying neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a rare disease that disrupts proteins in the eyes and spinal cord and can lead to mobility loss. Different people can have widely different manifestations of NMO. Dr. Yeaman focuses on personalized medication to meet each patient’s needs. Dr. Jill Weimer, a senior director for Sanford Research, also discussed changing patients’ gene mutations as a cure for disease. While this possibility needs more research, it shows much promise.

The innovations in health and technology discussed at the fifth Vatican Pontifical Council will help minimize not only disease but also poverty. Worldwide improvements in health lead to fewer preventable deaths, more stabilized economies and more people finding jobs. Though this was the fifth Vatican Pontifical Council, it was the first virtual one, demonstrating that the Council is adapting to the pandemic and continuing to make a difference.

– Selena Soto
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Help Reduce Poverty
In light of the global pandemic, Pope Francis has kept busy advocating for poverty reduction around the world. Francis spent the year 2021 mending relationships between the Catholic Church and the Middle East and offering support to healthcare workers. Here are some of the most important things the Pope did in 2021 to help reduce poverty.

Advocation to Reduce the Debt of Impoverished Nations

Pope Francis delivered a statement in April 2021 at a meeting that the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) hosted. Mostly, he discussed how impoverished nations should receive a greater share in decision-making for the international market. He also pushed for debt relief and reduction for nations struggling during the pandemic. “The pandemic, however, has reminded us once again that no one is saved alone,” Francis wrote.

He also stated that “a spirit of global solidarity also demands at the least a significant reduction in the debt burden of the poorest nations, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Relieving the burden of debt of so many countries and communities today is a profoundly human gesture that can help people to develop, to have access to vaccines, health, education and jobs.” The Pope’s statement highlighted the “ecological debt” all nations owe to the environment. He also remarked that ecological degradation and biodiversity loss are manmade issues. He asserted that the issue could come to a resolution if impoverished nations, generally the ones environmental challenges most affect, can put their finances toward combating it.

Francis Became the First Pope to Visit Iraq

With the events of 9/11 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict long exacerbating Islamophobia, Pope Francis’s arrival in Iraq marked a new beginning for Catholic-Muslim relations. Nostra Aetate, which Pope Paul VI issued in 1965, decreed that the Catholic Church must examine its relationships with non-Christian religions. The declaration contains a section dedicated to Islam, which urges mutual understanding in the name of peace and freedom. Pope Francis attempts to follow Nostra Aetate and continues to extend respect for the Islamic religion. He desires to mend the relationship between the two faiths.

While in Iraq, Francis met with Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the leader of Iraq’s Shiites, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Pope also met with Daesh’s terror survivors and called for peace between Christians and Muslims. Pope Francis urged that Christians and Muslims let go of their past and work toward rebuilding Iraq.

Pope Francis has Continued to Donate Around the World

Throughout the pandemic, the Pope continued his charity work for healthcare workers and affected families. During his trip to Iraq, Francis donated $250,000 to families in Baghdad. Francis also extended support to a women’s healthcare center in India. In May 2021, Francis donated 20,000 euros to the Shanti Ashram women’s health and social center in Coimbatore, India, which supports around 50,000 women and children. The center had hosted an international online conference with a goal of raising 60,000 euros, but it fell short. Pope Francis donated 20,000 euros to make up the difference.

Pope Francis did not just donate financially, he also supplied several medical facilities with medical equipment. The Apostolic Nuncio in Colombia confirmed that the Pope sent PPE and four respirators to the San Francisco de Asis Hospital and the Santiago Clinic. The pandemic hit their area particularly hard. The Pope donated respirators to eight other countries as well, including Bolivia, Syria and South Africa.

Moving Forward to Help Reduce Poverty

Pope Francis has shown that generosity always comes first, especially in a global pandemic when poverty is on the rise. Under his leadership, the Catholic Church will continue to promote charity work and peace in the Middle East and help reduce poverty.

Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

Universal Basic Income in Kenya
Imagine if one received free money from the government every month, directly into their bank account with no one asking any questions. It may sound too good to be true, yet that is the main premise behind universal basic income or UBI. Universal basic income in Kenya is going a long way toward fighting the results of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Universal Basic Income?

With UBI programs, governments, organizations or private funders deposit direct cash payments to citizens monthly. These deposits occur regardless of status or circumstance with no strings attached. This means no interest and no expectation to recipients to repay the money. UBI programs intend to supplement or even entirely replace other financial social programs and help those struggling financially. The goal of this financial aid is to prevent vulnerable groups from falling deeper into poverty. In addition, it works toward alleviating national poverty on a wider scale.

The idea of universal basic income has long been under debate with skeptics insisting that providing free money to the impoverished would only lower the incentive to work, bankrupt any government who would give it an honest try and fail to address the root causes of poverty. While these criticisms are well grounded, UBI has nonetheless collected a growing base of supporters. Early supporters of a UBI program date back to the Enlightenment, including political activist and philosopher Thomas Paine and French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. In more recent years, supporters have included Silicon Valley giants Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and South African billionaire Elon Musk. Others range from author Milton Friedman to Pope Francis.

UBI in Practice Globally

Perhaps surprisingly, countries all over the world have experimented with UBI programs. What may come as an even bigger shock is that it has been in use in the United States for the last four decades. Since 1982, Alaska has implemented the Alaska Permanent Fund, an investment fund that disperses a dividend of anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 to every Alaskan resident including children. The results have virtually eliminated extreme poverty in the state. Extreme poverty refers to those living on $2 or less a day.

Outside of North America, UBI programs have undergone implementation in every continent except Antarctica, from Brazil to Japan with a varying degrees of success. This highlights the widespread capabilities and applications that are possible with basic income systems. However, 2020 introduced a new variable to the theory of UBI. How would a basic income system affect communities dealing with the adverse health and economic effects of a global pandemic?

UBI and COVID-19

The longest-running and most ambitious attempt at a universal basic income system is currently underway in Kenya. Since 2016, nonprofit GiveDirectly has been sending direct cash payments to more than 14,000 households in the Siaya and Bomet Counties of Kenya. The mission is to continue the program through 2028. In doing so, it will collect decades worth of data on the effects of UBI on poverty-stricken communities.

However, the unprecedented arrival of COVID-19 has brought disastrous effects to Kenya’s economy and will likely send millions into poverty. The unpredictable addition of a global pandemic has enabled researchers to examine the effects of an established universal basic income infrastructure. This situation provides invaluable insight into how a basic income system might help vulnerable communities cope with a large-scale crisis.

Based in the Siaya and Bomet Counties of Kenya the program split the recipients of cash payments into four groups. These groups included long-term, short-term, lump sum and a control group. For long-term recipients, every adult for the duration of the 12-year program is to receive $0.75 per day. This amount sufficiently covers food expenses and basic health and schooling needs.

The short-term recipients received the same amount for basic needs, $0.75 per day, for two years. The third group received a lump sum that amounted to a one-time payment of $500. Finally, the control group did not receive any payments at all. This allowed an honest comparison amongst villagers to evaluate the significance that UBI payments had on individuals who received payments.

The Results

Those receiving universal basic income in Kenya experienced better food security and were less likely to report experiencing hunger in the past 30 days. This resulted in a widespread improvement in overall rates of hunger. Hunger rates fell from 68% to 57%, with the strongest improvements coming from the long-term group of recipients.

Looking at general health including mental health, UBI recipients showed promising results. Results indicated that payments reduced the probability that an individual would seek medical treatment. Furthermore, households were around six percentage points less likely to report that a household member was ill. Research also suggests that payments reduced hospital utilization, which helped preserve hospital capacity. Having the peace of mind that at least one stream of income would remain steady certainly played a factor in improving the well-being of Kenyan’s facing economic uncertainty.

Universal basic income payments helped individuals stay resilient through the devastating effects of COVID-19. Nevertheless, basic income is still far from a silver bullet for fighting poverty. In Kenya, UBI was not effective at completely protecting recipients from economic hardship, and by nature, a UBI program will expose individuals to economic volatility and cannot guarantee complete financial protection.

However, payments allowed individuals a crucial advantage in holding on to basic needs such as food and healthcare in comparison to those without any basic income payments. This demonstrates that putting the infrastructure in place for universal basic income in Kenya can provide much-needed relief and security to citizens when they need it most.

Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Brazil
Brazil, the largest South American nation, recently recorded 100,000 casualties from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The country now has the second-highest figure of deaths linked to COVID-19. They come after the United States, which has over 150,000 casualties as of August 2020. President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the effects of the virus out of concern for the nation’s economy. However, physicians working in the Brazilian Ministry of Health debated with him over the effects of social distancing. They also debated over the use of the controversial hydroxychloroquine on ill patients. Unable to come to an agreement with Bolsonaro, both ministers resigned from their position.

With conflicting views among Brazilian leaders on how to contain the virus, concerns start to rise. These concerns are about plans to mitigate the disease in Brazil, or the lack thereof. As the numbers increase, other leaders around the world have taken the initiative to halt the coronavirus’ spread in Brazil.

Environmental Activist Greta Thunberg’s Contribution

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teenage activist prominent for mobilizing youth all over the world around the cause of global warming. She is donating $114,000 of prize money she received directly to efforts mitigating the coronavirus outbreak in the Amazon. She plans to send it to SOS Amazônia, a nongovernmental organization focused on protecting the Amazon rainforest. It also focuses on providing access to food, healthcare and hygiene to indigenous communities in the most vulnerable regions. This is not the first time Thunberg has contributed financially to weather the effects of the pandemic. In May 2020, she donated an additional $100,000 of the award money to UNICEF to protect children from the coronavirus. By aiding Brazilians’ fight against COVID-19, she hopes to bring awareness to people on the front lines affected by the climate crisis. This particularly applies to people in the global South.

Taiwan’s Efforts

The East Asian nation had a quick reduction of the virus during the early stages of the pandemic. It is also stepping in to contribute supplies in Brazil’s battle with the disease. Tsung-che Chiang, the nation’s representative to Brazil, donated 100,000 face masks to the residents of Manaus, a city suffering one of the biggest outbreaks of COVID-19 in Brazil. The masks will be sent by the Taiwanese government and distributed by the Manaus health department to public hospitals. This will protect medical personnel in the front lines of the virus’s battlegrounds. After Brazil, Taiwan has expressed interest in providing aid to other countries with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, under the Taiwan Can Help program.

Help from the Vatican

Vatican became aware of the lack of supplies in a hospital treating indigenous patients with COVID-19 in Brazil. As a result, Pope Francis sent a temperature gauge and respirator to the Campanha de Maraba Hospital that the apostolic nunciature in Brazil delivered. President Bolsonaro vetoed a law that would have provided indigenous populations with extra supplies and hospital beds due to their vulnerability to the virus. Because of this, the hospital was very much in need of the supplies. Pope Francis’ expressed affection for the Amazon made this contribution even more significant to the community near the hospital, which is predominantly Catholic. Including the aforementioned respirator, Brazil received three other respirators from the Vatican to subdue the spread of COVID-19 in Brazil.

Although the coronavirus’s presence in Brazil shows no sign of ending, neither have the efforts of leaders across the world. Numerous nations and authoritative figures donate their time and money to afflicted regions and organizations. Their efforts go toward organizations that provide much-needed aid to marginalized communities suffering from the virus. Once a unanimously-agreed-upon plan is formulated by the Brazilian government, a decline can be seen in the number of COVID-19 cases and casualties in South America’s largest nation.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

Rome’s Homeless
Although homelessness is widespread in the streets of Rome, many charities and organizations seek to provide shelter and food to the city’s homeless. Among these organizations is a palazzo that others deem the “Palace for the Poor.” Pope Francis has blessed this luxurious building that seeks to shelter, supply hot meals and provide various services to Rome’s homeless population.

The Pope and the Poor

Pope Francis has always been a strong advocate for the poor. His hope for the church, when he became pope in 2013, was for it to be “a poor church for the poor.” After his election, Pope Francis has continuously advanced and supported initiatives to help the poor. He allowed for the burial of a homeless man alongside clerics, inside a cemetery within the Vatican. Pope Francis also initiated the installation of showers in public restrooms for the homeless.

The “Palace for the Poor”

Among Pope Francis’ many actions to aid the poor was the conversion of the Palazzo Migliori into a shelter for the homeless. Palazzo Migliori possesses the name of the noble family who donated the residency to the Vatican in 1930. It originally served as a home for single mothers, that nuns of the Calasanziane religious order ran.

After the nuns moved out of the Palazzo, there were plans to convert the vacant building into a luxury hotel. Given its prime location close to St. Peter’s Square, where the Pope delivers his sermons, it would have attracted many tourists and generated significant revenue for the church. However, Pope Francis personally requested the officer in charge of administering the poor, Almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, to turn the Palazzo into a shelter for the homeless. He blessed the Palazzo on November 17, 2019, just one day before the World Day of the Poor.

How the Shelter Works

Volunteers who work at the homeless shelter are from the charity organization, The Community of St. Egidio. They facilitate two hot meals per day – breakfast from 7 to 8 a.m., and dinner from 7 to 9 p.m. There are about 16 rooms available for the homeless with two to three beds in each room and 13 bathrooms that include showers.

Housing about 50 men and women, the upper floors are for sleeping accommodations, while volunteers serve meals on the second floor of the palazzo. The kitchen is open to volunteers making meals that distribute to the rest of the city’s homeless.

The building’s lower floors provide various services for the homeless. These services include forms of social support such as “computing, reading, recreation, and psychological counseling” according to an article by ABC news.

The Shelter’s Purpose

The purpose of creating the “Palace for the Poor” intertwines with Pope Francis’s belief that “Beauty Heals.” He believes that the beautiful nature of the Palazzo Migliori will play an important role in helping the homeless recover.

One of the shelter’s volunteers, Sharon Christner, echoed Pope Francis’ message in an interview. She said that “what is special about this place is that it’s not about maximizing dollar signs but giving people a really beautiful place to be, with the idea that beauty heals.”

Under COVID-19

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to Rome’s homeless and poor, the Pope and the Vatican have continued to offer aid and services. Throughout the pandemic, many of the city’s homeless have moved closer to the Vatican to receive these resources.

According to the Vatican, many resources such as “shower facilities, sleeping quarters, and food assistance to the poor and homeless” are still in place. The Pope’s “Palace for the Poor” has remained open, offering warm meals and a place to sleep to those in need. The shelter’s kitchen is also still in use as volunteers continue to make and distribute meals to the city’s homeless.

The “Palace for the Poor” symbolizes the Pope’s empathy with the poor and homeless. It stands as a symbol in Rome for charity, humanity and beauty. Under decorated ceilings and amid noble furnishings, Rome’s homeless find shelter among beauty and relief from the warm meals and services the Palazzo Migliori provides.

Silvia Huang
Photo: Flickr

Popes help end international conflict
The Pope stands in the international arena as a unique authority without traditional elements of influence that countries hold. In place of an impressive military or a large economy, the Pope controls the hearts and minds of 1.28 billion Catholics globally.

Over the course of the past century, various Popes have stepped up in international discussions as mediators, condemned human rights violations and organized days of prayers and fasting for those caught in conflict zones. Here are the five most well-known examples of how Popes helped end international conflict.

Pope Benedict XV and WWI

Pope Benedict initially attempted to stop Italy from entering WWI and, when that failed, he offered papal peace mediation throughout the war. He wrote up the 1917 Papal Peace Appeal, which focused on free seas, war reparations, disarmament and Belgian independence. It emerged as a skeleton of a treaty that the leaders of the various states would expand upon, the negotiations in which “the Holy See would not necessarily itself be involved.” In the end, the Treaty of Versailles copied the points of the Papal Peace Appeal two years prior but excluded the Pope from talks.

Pope John Paul II and Poland’s Solidarity

As a native Pole, Pope John Paul became personally invested in the swift conclusion of martial law in Communist Poland in 1981. The Pope directed the Primate of Poland to meet with the Polish Prime Minister at the time, Wojciech Jaruzelski, to broker peace talks between the worker union Solidarity and the government. Additionally, John Paul II published a letter in which he substantiated this meeting and supported the goal of peace.

Pope John Paul II, Israel and Palestine

In 1993, after three years of negotiations, the Pope established diplomatic relations with Israel under the condition the country invite him to regional summits. When talks broke down between Israel and Palestine after the 1994 mosque massacre in the West Bank, the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin asked Pope John Paul II to help restart the discussions. Unfortunately, the Palestine Liberation Chairman, Yasser Arafat, rejected this offer of mediation due to his resolute stance that he would not resume talks unless the Israelis guaranteed that Palestinian women, children and holy sites would have protection. By 2000, the Holy See legitimized Palestinian territory, stopping just short of fully recognizing it. This put the Vatican on extremely good terms with both Israel and Palestine and strengthened its sway in the region.

Pope Francis, Israel and Palestine

In a continuation of the previous Pope’s work in the region, Pope Francis invited the leaders of Palestine and Israel to the Vatican for a day of prayer in 2014. He requested both sides to live in peace together, advocating for the two-state solution. Rather than force politically charged discussions, the Pope simply brought the two leaders together for a prayer summit followed by a private discussion. Years later, Francis’ 2018 Christmas Address further urged for peace in the region.

Pope Francis and South Sudan

South Sudan, with 70 percent of its population Christian, plunged into civil war in 2013 after an alleged coup that the vice president designed. Two years into the conflict, Pope Francis privately met with South Sudanese President Kiir in Uganda while he was visiting the region. In a similar manner to how other Popes helped end an international conflict before them, Francis aimed to create an open dialogue between the warring factions. In 2019, Pope Francis invited President Kiir to the Vatican to discuss and encourage the implementation of the 2019 ceasefire agreement.

By wielding their immense power in these five instances, these popes helped end international conflicts. At the very least, their efforts as a neutral party created opportunities for hostile forces to move towards peace. While this list highlights major interventions by recent popes, these men also influence international politics every day in extraordinarily subtle and powerful ways.

Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Vatican CityHome to the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Apostolic Chapel, Vatican City is one of the most sacred places in Christendom.

The sovereign city-state is contained within a walled enclave inside the city of Rome, giving it the distinction of being the world’s smallest country.

Main water resources in the city-state include the surface water from rivers and wetlands, groundwater from rocks and soil and treated government water supply. Water quality in Vatican City is good, thanks to the proliferation of drinking water fountains that take water directly from the mountains above the city.

Called “Nasoni” in Italian, the drinking water fountains in Rome are seen as inexpensive, environmentally-friendly options. The water is reportedly tested by the authorities about 250,000 times every year, ensuring that water quality in Vatican City is completely safe. Conveyed by an aqueduct to the drinking water fountains, an abundance of water means that a single family has more than 140 gallons to drink.

However, as recently as July 25, Vatican City decided to shut off all of its 100 decorative and drinking water fountains for conservation purposes because of a drought in Italy.

“The drought that is affecting the city of Rome and the surrounding areas of the capital has led the Holy See to take measures to save water,” the Vatican City’s website said. The statement also noted that the water-saving move was “in line with the teachings of Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the issue of water security and water quality in Vatican City and around the world.

Earlier this year, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of Vatican City and the Catedra Del Dialogo y La Cultura Del Encountro of Argentina convened a diverse panel of experts from all over the world in a conference titled, “Human Right to Water: An interdisciplinary focus and contributions on the central role of public policies in water and sanitation management.” Members explored solutions to the global water challenges, including how to make drinking water safe and accessible to the neediest of people and communities.

At the conference, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of water and noted an important distinction between providing life-giving water and water that is safe and of good quality. Noting that every day, thousands of children die due to water-related illnesses, he urged scientists, government leaders, businesspeople and politicians to foster a shared “culture of care and encounter” and hear “the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all.”

Furthermore, Pope Francis’ comprehensive encyclical, Laudato Si’ (On Care For Our Common Home), explains the Holy See’s views about the importance of good water quality: “In fact, access to safe drinking water is an essential, a fundamental and universal human right, because it determines the survival of people, and this is a requirement for the exercise of other human rights.”

As Italy struggles to respond to the drought crisis, both in and outside the Vatican City, Pope Francis has already inspired a global conversation centered on the values of the planet’s single most precious resource: water.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Pope Francis Visit Spotlights Human Trafficking in Europe
Slavery persists in the modern age all over the world, in fact, many first world countries fall victim to human trafficking, yet these instances are rarely publicized.  Human trafficking in Europe is both under-reported and under prosecuted. In 2010, at least 2,400 victims in Italy were identified but only 14 perpetrators were convicted. Pope Francis is helping to open the discussion of human trafficking and making headlines with his visit to 20 women forced into prostitution. In addition to providing valuable support to the women, he is helping to garner international attention and support to this important issue.

On August 12, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to 20 women in a Church-sponsored apartment in Rome. Most of the women are about 30 years old from Nigeria, Romania and Albania. They were lured in with jobs but seriously abused and forced into prostitution. He spent over an hour listening and supporting these women. This visit was part of the Pope’s Fridays of Mercy, where he visits a suffering community.

While human trafficking is rarely discussed, the fact of the matter is, everyday people are coerced into hard labor or sex. Both individuals and organized crime groups can be the perpetrators. Gabriela Chiroiu, head of an anti-trafficking program, says that traffickers in Romania “operate as cells,” which make it difficult to find all the disconnected groups. Italy’s expansive coast makes it particularly attractive for smugglers. These are only two countries heavily affected by human trafficking. There are an estimated 15,846 victims of human trafficking in Europe.

Pope Francis’ visit was not the first time he called attention to this grievous breach of human rights. Last year, he congratulated the Catholic Santa Marta Group for their work to end slavery. Earlier this summer, he emphasized at the Judge’s Summit that it was everyone’s responsibility to end modern slavery.

Fortunately, Pope Francis is not the only one fighting this important issue. Reaching Out Romania has helped 470 victims all over Europe. Not for Sale, an international organization, provides internships and job training for victims in the Netherlands and legal assistance for victims in Romania.

The fight against human trafficking in Europe and the rest of the world is quiet but alive and ongoing. Pope Francis’s visit and remarks have brought this injustice to the public eye again. The 15,846 European victims need support and assistance that can only come once human trafficking is widely recognized as a problem.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr

Mobile Medical Unit
Revolutionary in more ways than one, the Vatican recently donated a mobile medical unit to the people of one of the most ancient cities on the planet. The unit tours Rome’s borders and offers free health care to those in need — including but not limited to immigrants, expectant mothers and children.

Pope Francis is a prominent voice for those in need. Regularly speaking out about people living in poverty, the Pope frequently stresses the importance and impact that the impoverished have on society.

The life-saving vehicle does its best to blend in — with Vatican City license plates and the Holy See’s coat of arms (two keys topped by a papal crown), the mobile medical unit is Roman through and through. Dr. Lucia Ercoli, director of the Instituto di Medicina Solidale, said that using Vatican license plates allows migrants living in inhumane conditions to experience the closeness of the Pope and the church.

Istituto di Medicina Solidale staff, a group of volunteer doctors, health care professionals and medical students, use the RV-styled vehicle to assist people in need. The vehicle serves a diverse group of people, including many refugee children who lost their parents during the dangerous journey from their home country to Italy.

The group has been active since 2004 and partners with other nonprofit groups and the church to create makeshift clinics that offer services to the poor. In the summer of 2015, the association started providing services to a church-run center for immigrants near a city train station. In one day, hundreds of people showed up for check-ups.

In March of 2015, the Vatican opened a “clinic for the poor” located near the colonnade. The clinic offered free medical treatment and services to those unable to afford basic medical care.

Additionally, the Vatican has provided access to showers and barbershops. In October 2015, Pope Francis and his fellow Jesuits converted an old travel agency into a dormitory for the homeless.

The Vatican mobile medical unit provides a more private setting for patients and includes more equipment. As of August 2016, the vehicle has accommodated more than 2,000 people near shanty towns and abandoned buildings while simultaneously paving the way for further developments in healthcare.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Pixabay

Mother Teresa
Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa, a nun who committed her life to helping the poor. The Pope will do so on the 19th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, where she did extensive work assisting the impoverished.

An article written in USA Today describes Mother Teresa as, “Affectionately known as the saint of the gutter for her unconditional love for the poor, abandoned and marginalized.” As a result of her work in India, Mother Teresa earned several international honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Mother Teresa was born in Albania in the year 1910. At the age of 18, she joined an Irish Convent and received the name, “Sister Mary Teresa.” Months later, she moved to India, where she taught at St. Mary’s School for girls.

According to an article on the CNN website, “There, she took her Final Profession of Vows and became Mother Teresa.” Her Vatican biography stated that “nearly 20 years later, during a train ride in India, she felt a calling from Jesus to care for the poor.” She established Missionaries of Charity to serve the poorest of all.

She was beatified in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, who approved her first posthumous miracle. A USA Today report explains that beatification, recognition by the Catholic Church that a person is welcomed into heaven, requires at least one miracle, while to be sainted, requires two. Mother Teresa’s first miracle was declared after the Vatican Committee found no scientific explanation for the recovery of an Indian woman who prayed to Mother Teresa while suffering from a stomach tumor.

CNN reports that, in December of last year, Pope Francis recognized a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, the recovery of a Brazilian man suffering from multiple brain tumors. Pope Francis will be canonizing Mother Teresa on September 4 of this year.

Isabella Rolz

Photo: Wikipedia