By Andrea Gagliarducci for Catholic News Agency
There are about three million people without heath care in war-torn Syria, and the papal envoy to the country has launched a project to help some of them.
Cardinal Mario Zenari launched the Open Hospitals project to enhance and empower three Catholic hospitals in Syria. He visited Rome’s Gemelli Hospital to help promote the initiative.
“It is just a drop, albeit a very precious drop, in our sea of necessities,” the cardinal told CNA. “It is a sign of the solidarity of the Church toward so many poor people.”
“In the end, Catholic means 'universal,' that is, open to anyone who is in need. A Catholic hospital is, by its own nature, an open hospital,” he added.
Since March 2011, the Syrian Civil War has ravaged the country, killing hundreds of thousands and driving millions from their homes.
“A great number of health care facilities have been knocked out by warfare,” the cardinal said. “This is the moment to enhance and help three Catholic hospitals, managed by the religious congregation, that have been working in Syria for more than 100 years.”
Cardinal Zenari has been papal nuncio to Syria since 2008. Pope Francis made him a cardinal during the last consistory, an unusual honor for a residential nuncio that showed papal support for Syria.
The cardinal conceived the idea of the Open Hospitals effort with Msgr. Giampetro Dal Toso, secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who visited Aleppo at the end of conflict in the city. The initiative is operated by the Catholic NGO AVSI, with the contribution of the Gemelli Foundation.
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