Protesters in Sri Lankan capital Colombo Protesters in Sri Lankan capital Colombo  (AFP or licensors)

ACN provides 465,000 € support to Church in Sri Lanka

With Sri Lanka’s priests and religious struggling to survive, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need is offering a vital lifeline so that they can continue their essential ministry during the country’s state of emergency.

By Lisa Zengarini

As Sri Lankans await a new president this week, following the ousting of Gotabaya Rajapaksa on July 15 amid economic meltdown and protests, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has announced it is providing 465,000 Euros in vital support for priests and religious in the island nation so that they can continue their essential ministry during the crisis. The Catholic charity, which supports Christians in need across the world has already helped Sri Lankan dioceses through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting priests and religious 

The new package consists of Mass stipends – which provide priests with a basic income – and subsistence aid for catechists, sisters and other members of religious orders carrying out essential pastoral work in Sri Lanka.

The debt-ridden Asian country, which has plunged into an umprecedented economic and financial crisis due to gross mismanagement of the economy and widespread corruption, is facing crippling shortages of fuel, food and medicines depriving the people of basic needs and livelihoods.

Church affected by shortages and rising prices

The crisis is also heavily affecting the local Church, as confirmed to  ACN by Bishop Valence Mendis of Kandy. The prelate told the Catholic charity, that it is struggling to cover its own costs, and finding it more and more difficult  to relieve the suffering of all those  turning to the Church for help.

“People can afford virtually nothing. Our priests and religious are badly affected by the crisis”, he said. “There are very long queues of people trying to buy fuel, gas, powdered milk, sugar, rice, medicines. Many people have lost their jobs, and prices have risen astronomically”, Bishop Mendis explained. With inflation having soared above 54 percent last month, food prices are now 80 percent higher than this time last year. According to the Srilankan central bank, inflation could further rise to 70% in the coming months.

Economic crisis and political unrest

The economic and financial difficulties in Sri Lanka began in 2019, with growing public debt, aggravated by the collapse of tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rise in food and energy prices - exacerbated in 2022 by the war in Ukraine – has further  increased the severe debt and has lead the country to nearly run out of US dollars for imports and to default on foreign loans.

Widespread discontent over the management of the crisis broke out last week-end  when hundreds of thousands of people took over government buildings in Colombo, forcing President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign.

New president expected to be elected on July 20

Sri Lankans are now waiting for the Parliament to elect a new president on July 20. Meanwhile Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has been appointed interim president by the Sri Lankan Parliament, despite opposition from protesters, declared a state of emergency on July 17 to tackle social unrest stemming from the crisis.

On Saturday he said he would implement an urgent relief programme to provide fuel, gas and essential food items to Sri Lankans and also promised to enter dialogue with protesters on reducing government corruption.

Pope Francis praying for Sri Lanka

During the Angelus prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Sri Lanka, joining  the religious leaders of the country in calling everyone to refrain from any form of violence and to initiate a process of dialogue for the common good.

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19 July 2022, 14:50