Vatican City, 27 November 2013 (VIS) – This morning, in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the “Healthcare Mission for Syrian Child Refugees in Lebanon” promoted by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital and Caritas Lebanon. The speakers in the conference were: Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”; Giuseppe Profiti, president of Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital; Fr. Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon; and May El Hachem, director of the department of dermatology at Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital.

“Helping the Syrian population, regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief, is the most direct way of contributing to peace-building and the edification of a society open to all its different members”: Cardinal Sarah explained that Pope Francis' words inspired this project, in the hope that “these tragedies may never be repeated”.

“We believe that the best gift we can give in order to help the children who suffer as a result of the Syrian war is that of enabling them to smile again and to be able to continue to live, accompanying them in a growth that must be not only material, but also and above all spiritual and human”. According to data from the United Nations refugee agency, there are more than two million Syrian refugees in the countries in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean area, of whom there are 700 thousand in Lebanon alone, 515 thousand in Jordan, and 460 thousand in Turkey. Of all of the above, around 52% are children and minors below the age of seventeen.

To supervise co-operative activity and aid distribution, an information and communications office was established in Beirut last June, which brings together all the Catholic charitable agencies in an area of great historical and spiritual significance for Christianity. “This structure, which will continue to be central also in the phase – hopefully near – in which the conflict is brought to an end, is the result of collaboration of charitable organisations, which in the name of the mission of the universal Church have decided to share their competences and their work of witness”, explained Cardinal Sarah. He also commented that “This is the language that the Church, all together, wishes to and must speak … to all those who are in need in in poverty, not only material but also spiritual”.

The “Mission” will begin in early December, and will have an initial duration of three months. During this time, and with the funds available, it will be able to give necessary medical assistance to three to four million children.

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