Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - Benin recorded the first cases of Covid-19 in March and, as in other parts of the world, the pandemic caused profound changes on social, economic and health levels, with also psychological consequences, creating an atmosphere of anguish and fear. The government has taken the necessary measures to contain the pandemic, including the isolation and closure of places of worship and schools, prohibiting all activities and meetings. The Church has been committed from the first moment to being close to the sufferings of people and to try to respond to their needs. The prolonged critical situation has however used up the economic resources of dioceses and parishes, which asked for the help of the Emergency Fund established by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) to support the Churches of mission countries facing the Covid-19 emergency (see Fides, 6/4/2020). The aid sent to the dioceses will therefore allow them to continue their work of assistance and evangelization.
The Diocese of Abomey asked for help for the prevention and assistance activities of vulnerable children in diocesan centers, and of children and adults affected by the effects of Covid in the various pastoral sectors. The Diocese of Dassa Zoumé must provide for the sustenance of priests and pastoral workers, which the parishes took care of, but with the closure of the churches it is no longer possible to collect the offerings among the faithful. In addition, many people have been left without a job and Caritas are taking care of some elderly confined at home.
In the diocese of Djougou Catholic schools are a priority, as the parents of students are no longer able to pay school fees, being unable to meet even the basic needs of families. The diocese of Lokossa is a rural diocese, which even before the pandemic had no basic infrastructure, now the situation is even more serious. Among emergencies, teachers and school staff of Catholic schools have not received their salary for months, as the coffers of the diocese are empty.
The population of Natitingou received the first announcement of the Gospel in 1941, a population made up of farmers, breeders and small artisans, who live in precarious conditions. Priests and religious institutes that collaborate in evangelization are now deprived of sustenance.
In the diocese of N'Dali, the local Church provides food support, through the distribution of corn, rice, sorghum, and financial support for orphanages, the elderly, the poor and vulnerable children.
Support for seminaries and Catholic schools is of great urgency in the diocese of Parakou, while in Porto Novo priests and religious communities are in a difficult situation.
Also in Madagascar, in the diocese of Ambanja, aid from the PMS Fund is intended to support the school system. The environment is rural and young people leave school early as families lack the necessary financial means, so they fall into drugs and delinquency, many girls get pregnant at a very young age. The diocese has responded as it could to this situation by building several schools over the years, from kindergartens to high schools, to ensure an education for as many children as possible, but following the pandemic the situation of this school year is catastrophic: many have abandoned school and there is need to support pupils and teachers, who are unemployed.
The Archdiocese of Dakar, Senegal, has an essentially poor population, of low social level, made up of farmers, fishermen and workers. In almost all parishes there are educational and health structures that offer a fundamental service to the community. The consequences of the pandemic have been added to the adversities of the climate of previous years, thus making the situation increasingly difficult. There is therefore a need to support evangelization activities, teams of priests and catechists who continue their mission in this context, in addition to the two reception centers for children and the activities of spiritual and social reflection for children after the post-Covid period. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 3/7/2020)