Bogota (Agenzia Fides) - "The District of Mercy" was founded in one of the most vulnerable areas of the Colombian capital, promoted and supported by the Catholic Church, in a coordinated work between the Archdiocese and different religious communities, paying attention to children, youth, adults and the elderly, who face complex social realities.
Father Jorge Eliécer Arias Toro, animator of the Archdiocesan Coordination of the Care for Human Dignity and director of the Domus Colombia Foundation, describes the situation in the area in these words: "The area has many problems of all kinds. There is moral poverty, physical poverty. There are many elderly people in a state of neglect, drug use is high, many inhabitants live on the street.
Added to these are displaced persons, migrants, children and youth who do not attend school".
Faced with this multi-problem reality, the District, whose central axis of operations is the neighborhood of Las Cruces, in the south-eastern area of Bogotá, offers shelter, material assistance in response to basic needs; spiritual guidance; therapeutic paths; support for the reestablishment of rights; and scholastic, human and Christian formation.
According to information released by the Colombian Bishops' Conference and sent to Fides, among the religious communities involved in this work is the Congregation of the Servants of Christ the Priest, who provide assistance to the elderly, children and adolescents, through three centres. The "Emmaus Pastoral and Development Center" provides assistance to the elderly and the homeless, offering a daily breakfast. It also supports about 80 children and adolescents for school recovery, integration into the educational system, ensuring breakfast and lunch. It also follows mothers who are breadwinners.
The "Hogar Sagrada Familia" is home to 95 girls between the ages of 7 and 21, whose rights have been violated, who are cared for by an interdisciplinary team of 35 professionals. The "Hogar Clarita Santos" cares for 49 children with cognitive, multiple and sensory disabilities. From 6 a.m. until 4 p.m., physical and therapeutic activities are carried out, and parents are also guided in paths of co-responsibility in the care of these children.
A short distance away is the
"Casa della Speranza Fratel Ettore" which welcomes women relatives of people hospitalized in the area or who need medical care and have no accommodation. This work is attended by the Little Sisters Apostles of the Redemption. There is also the "Pastoral center for the care of the elderly Fratel Ettore", which provides housing for 15 grandmothers in vulnerable or abandoned situations. This pastoral center also provides 100 lunches to homeless people every Saturday; and 200 breakfasts for vulnerable people on Sundays.
In the area, as a pillar of evangelization and pastoral accompaniment, stands the parish of Nuestra Señora del Carmen - Las Cruces, erected in 1902. Parallel to the proclamation of the Gospel, the priests and evangelization animators, together with people of good will, are committed to the promotion of human dignity, responding to the concrete needs of people.
A few blocks to the north-east, stands another parish, dedicated to Nuestra Señora de Belén, which is entrusted to the Montfort Missionaries and carries out various social programs to benefit the neediest population. There is a soup kitchen for the elderly and homeless that has been operating every Saturday for more than 20 years, where more than 200 lunches are served, and recreation and health days are also held, led by a group of lay people.
There are also other initiatives carried out by various religious institutes that give life to the "Archdiocesan Network for the Care of Human Dignity," in which institutions and organizations led by committed religious and lay communities participate, which is based on a humanism focused on mercy. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 14/4/2023)