A member of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic forces stands guard near buildings destroyed during battles with Ukrainian armed forces, at Donetsk airport, Ukraine, June 1. Pope Francis has established a committee to distribute aid in Ukraine with an ecumenical, interreligious approach. CNS photo/Alexander Ermochenko, Reuters

Pope sets up committee to distribute aid in Ukraine

  • June 9, 2016

VATICAN CITY – After making a personal donation and asking Catholic parishes throughout Europe to take up a special collection for victims of the war in Eastern Ukraine, Pope Francis has set up a predominantly Ukrainian committee to distribute the funds and has asked that they go to projects suggested first of all by the assemblies of Ukraine's religious leaders.

"There was a great response" to the Pope's request for a special collection April 24, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. 

Some parishes and dioceses are still forwarding the money to the Vatican, so an exact figure is not known, Lombardi said June 9, but "it must be substantial" if the Pope thought a special committee was needed to distribute it.

Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobilo of the Latin-rite Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia will serve as president of the five-member committee, said a Vatican statement. The Vatican-based Caritas Internationalis and Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes charitable giving, will name one committee member and Sobilo is asked to name the other three.

The committee members, the statement said, will be asked to volunteer their service "so that the funds collected will be used effectively" to assist people in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting continues, and those who have been forced to flee to other parts of the country.

In considering requests for aid, the Vatican said, priority should be given to proposals from the ecumenical and interreligious assemblies that exist in Ukraine and from individual bishops — both Catholic and Orthodox — in parts of the country where the assemblies do not operate.

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