With this report we provide a snapshot of the work undertaken by Caritas Europa in 2020.
The year was deeply marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had, and continues to have, an enormous impact on the European region and the whole world, affecting the people that Caritas serves the most. As for any crisis, it is the people in the most vulnerable situations that are the first victims and face most severe consequences.
What I carry firmly in my heart from this year, however, is that it has become clearer than ever that Caritas stands with, and continues to support, the people in the most difficult and challenging situations.
The whole Caritas family had as its motto ‘Caritas doesn’t close’. It has been incredible to see how Caritas has adapted its ways of working to the situation. These shifts have not been easy, but there has been an impressive willingness to do what it takes to support the people we are called to serve as Caritas. We have also seen many beautiful signs of solidarity in many countries.
At Caritas Europa, we adapted our ways of working to the COVID reality, and it our wish was to be close to the member organisations throughout the pandemic, collecting stories and experiences and discussing them in peer exchanges, so solutions could be shared to support sister Caritas organisations. We learnt new ways of working, and truly realised that working ‘in silos’ is unfit for the times we are living in, when everything is interconnected. This influenced the finalisation of the Caritas Europa Strategic Framework 2021-2028, as we created new working structures as well as divisions of responsibilities within the Secretariat for the years ahead.
The coronavirus crisis has already had dramatic consequences. Inequality is on the rise and the number of people experiencing more severe poverty or falling into poverty is increasing. The pandemic has suddenly made it difficult for many people to live in dignity, with so many without unemployment and social safety nets. As a service provider, many Caritas organisations have also had to face funding cuts, increased expenses, concerns for the welfare of staff and volunteers, and the list goes on.
The crisis has proved what Caritas knows at our heart. It has shown in a cruel way what happens when people are left behind, when inequalities persist, when social protection systems are weak or not there, and when we do not invest in services supporting the most marginalised in our societies. The crisis demonstrates how essential inclusive measures and integration are. To emerge from this crisis, these glaring gaps must be addressed, as we continue on the path toward building a just society.
However, whilst Europe is suffering greatly from this crisis, the consequences will be far more serious in developing countries, with much more fragile social and health systems. This is a wake up call, urging us to seize the opportunity to build a world where we no longer build separations between us and ‘the other,’ but where we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the globe.
COVID-19 knows no borders but neither do faith, hope and love. An emergency crisis that erupts unexpectedly can be addressed only by an equal ‘eruption’ of hope.
Cardinal Tagle, President of Caritas Internationalis, Easter message 2020 to Caritas member organisations
Thanks for having been bearers of Hope in a very challenging time, for the Light and Faith you bring. I hope that as Caritas Europa, we have been able to support to you through the work undertaken in this past year, which has been our only wish and objective. We were distant physically, but we carried each other in spirit, in our thoughts and prayers. I wish to thank each and every one of you, for your patience, support and friendship.
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