Two months ago, the world was forced to slow down. Due to the new Coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19), mankind has reduced its activities, closed down its trade, and suspended its travels to mitigate this terrible pandemic, which is taking thousands of lives. A Covid-19 vaccine has not been developed yet. Amongst Covid-19 deaths are some Vincentians, relatives of Vincentians and our friends in need.
Our members, in their Conferences and parishes, have suffered a lot since the traditional charitable actions couldn’t be undertaken with the usual effectiveness. Home visits to the poor, formation/training courses, in-person meetings, maintenance of our special works and the regular activity of our shops (thrift stores), among other areas, have been severely affected. With the pandemic, poverty, hunger and the unemployment rate have increased.
The Council General International (CGI) of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) cannot turn a blind eye on the situation; to that end, a myriad of actions has been implemented to address the issues in these difficult times, humbly begging God to help us defeat this pandemic, so that we can get back to normal quickly.
An overview of some of the initiatives launched by the CGI are set out below, aimed at ensuring the effective functioning of the SSVP at the international level, for an ever-better service to the Superior Councils, especially in poor or developing countries. The measures are as follows:
- Layout of a specific logo aimed at standardizing the SSVP’s actions in the battle against the virus, and highlighting initiatives with those affected, either by the disease or by the high unemployment rates and food poverty that has arisen since the start of the pandemic.
- Launching of a “Prayer Chain” with Our Lady and Blessed Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam, as a spiritual reinforcement during these times of social confinement.
- Publication of a spiritual article, written by the 16th President General, addressed to all members of the Society throughout the world, conveying a message of optimism, patience, trust, faith, hope and charity.
- Approval of 15 extraordinary administrative measures, such as the cancellation of some events and the postponement of most of the main international events and gatherings, while maintaining the International Themed Year of Felix Clavé 2020 and relevant meetings.
- International appeal for the “Covid-19 Special Fund”, launched by the Commission for International Aid and Development (CIAD), with its own resources and external donations: 20 countries have already benefited from an average donation of 3,000 euros each as an initial emergency response.
- Authorization to postpone elections and takeovers in the Superior Councils, at the request of the countries, until further notice.
- Regular publication (almost daily) of news about projects, actions, campaigns and international Twinning undertaken by Superior Councils to help those most affected by Covid-19 by disseminating these initiatives on the SSVP media.
- Fostering the use of social networks, videoconferences and IT for training/formaiton actions and communication amongst members, especially with the youth.
- Live participation of various CGI leaders in several audiovisual media, produced by the Superior Councils, in order to raise the self-esteem of Vincentians and to maintain fluid communication.
- Publication of ethical guidelines to raise awareness about the protocol to be followed on social media during this pandemic, thus avoiding exposure of our friends in need and the self-promotion of the SSVP members themselves.
- HR Management of the international headquarters in Paris, which is being carried out directly by the Secretary General, to ensure the integral health of the staff and other collaborators.
- CGI’s 2020 budget restructuring, with responsibility and austerity
- Total support for initiatives proposed by the Vincentian Family to battle against the pandemic and to raise additional funds.
- Contact with global companies, foundations, celebrities from the art world and other well-known people, requesting the donation of resources to the SSVP’s poor countries.
- Special letter submitted to all SSVP Conference’s presidents worldwide, our beloved servant-leaders, conveying a message of hope and love.
“Despite all the restrictions imposed due to this pandemic, we will never leave behind those in need. Charity cannot be stopped. The poor we serve, more than ever, need the loving hand and compassionate support of Vincentians. The Council General, in spite of all the existing circumstances, will always be on the side of the Superior Councils, so that the great network of charity may continue to yield good fruits for mankind”, stated our President General, fellow member Renato Lima de Oliveira.
The Council General International has gone through many hardships since its foundation in 1839. Wars, epidemics, natural disasters, political crises and social conflicts are part of the appalling reality of this planet, which often turns its back on Christ. But in all these cases, the SSVP has succeeded in overcoming the problems and challenges of life. Right now, we need unity, patience and resolution. We will soon, God willing, celebrate the end of the pandemic and the beginning of a new era for mankind, with more solidarity and empathy among peoples and nations.
May 13th, 2020.
Day of Our Lady of Fatima
Fellow member Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th President General