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Catholic charities at home and abroad hit by COVID-related collapse in income

By Cian Molloy - 20 September, 2020

"Spare a thought and prayer for our brothers and sisters overseas who are scrambling desperately to survive in the face of so much relentless adversity," says WMI director Fr Michael O'Sullivan.

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc with Church finances, with diocesan and papal charities alike reporting difficulties in raising funds for their vital services.

Earlier this month, Fr Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests reported that church income was ‘in free-fall’, because of the fact that church plate collections have diminished drastically because fewer people than ever before are attending Mass during this time of pandemic.

In the Dublin Archdiocese, it is reckoned that parishes suffered an 80 percent drop in income this year when all public worship was suspended in March. Although, churches have reopened and communal celebration of Sunday Masses has returned, the archdiocese says that the improvement in finances in the last two months is only a ‘modest’ one.

Now, Catholic charities are starting to feel the pinch. In Dublin, today is Crosscare Sunday, when a special church plate collection is held for the archdiocese’s social services arm. Crosscare provides a wide range of support to the needy:  food banks and emergency accommodation for the homeless, advocacy and support for migrants and a wide range of youth activities, to name just a few.

Appealing to the faithful of Dublin to be generous today, Archbishop Martin said: “For over 75 years now, Crosscare has mirrored the loving kindness of Jesus Christ through providing food and accommodation, information and advice, education and support to those who are  most in need in our society; people who are homeless, in crisis, disabled and isolated, elderly and alone.

“Crosscare sets out to redress the harsh consequences of poverty and disadvantage. It works to identify social exclusion, in its old and new expressions, and to lead those who are excluded into being once again people who can realise their God-given dignity and potential to the fullest degree possible.

“I urge you to be generous again this year and to give what you can to this collection.”

Meanwhile, World Mission Sunday is in jeopardy, says one of its key organisers a full month before the event is held on 18 October.

Julieann Moran, national secretary of World Missions Ireland (WMI), says that for nearly a hundred years, an annual worldwide church collection has been held to raise funds for the Pontifical Mission Societies, but that monies raised this year look like being desperately low.

“The pandemic means that less parishioners can attend Mass worldwide, meaning less offerings in the basket,” Ms Moran said.

“When you consider that in many poorer inaccessible parishes, it is missionaries who are on the front line; the implications in the months ahead will be devastating. Missionaries already do so much. COVID-19 adds even more challenges for these women and men, many of whom are in war-torn countries; remote areas where political conflicts, violent protests, extreme poverty, malnutrition and diseases are rife. These are crises faced on a daily basis and looking beyond COVID-19, sadly these crises will remain.”

Last year in Ireland, World Mission Sunday raised €1.6m to support overseas missionaries serving in Africa, Asia and Latin America. However, unless the fewer donors available are extraordinarily generous this year, it looks like this year’s event will raise only a fraction of that.

WMI director Fr Michael O’Sullivan commented: “I know how challenging these times are. But however we may suffer in Ireland, on World Mission Sunday Pope Francis calls us to spare a thought and prayer for our brothers and sisters overseas who are scrambling desperately to survive in the face of so much relentless adversity. As always, we are tremendously grateful for the ongoing support of the Irish faithful across the whole island. Their kindness towards World Mission Sunday plays an enormous part in easing suffering, and I hope and pray it will continue to do so.”

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