Students inn Rwanda wash their hands at a temporary hand washing point Students inn Rwanda wash their hands at a temporary hand washing point 

Vatican Dicastery calls for efforts to confront water-related issues

The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development publishes a document on the need to safeguard and care for the planet’s water reservoirs and provide clean water to all.

By Linda Bordoni 

Water is the only substance on earth that occurs naturally in solid, liquid and gas forms. Without it there would be no life on our planet. It is also a powerful spiritual symbol associated with the cleansing and purification of the body and the spirit. 

For Christians, baptism by water – itself a symbol of God’s grace – signifies spiritual rebirth.

Aqua fons vitae. Orientations on Water, symbol of the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth. This is the title of a new Vatican document rooted in the Social Magisterium of the Popes, and inspired by work carried out by national and local Churches in different countries.

The document distinguishes three aspects or dimensions relating to water:

1) water for human use;

2) water as a resource used in many human activities, in particular agriculture and industry;

3) water as a surface, namely rivers, underground aquifers, lakes and especially oceans and seas. 

For each aspect, the text presents the related challenges and operational proposals to increase awareness of the issue and commitment at local level. 

The final part of the document proposes a reflection on education and integrity.

In a press release on Monday, the Dicastery also announced that a strategy is being defined to address the situation regarding water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). This will apply to health care facilities belonging to the Catholic Church. 

The press release notes that in poor and developing countries too many sanitation facilities do not have adequate access to water for the most basic needs of cleanliness and hygiene. This places billions of people at risk.

Without clean water, sinks, soaps, toilets and hygiene procedures patients, care staff and families lack the foundation or infrastructure for decent, safe, quality care.

“Births, surgery, infections, epidemics: none of these can be managed safely without water, and the situation is particularly alarming in these weeks marked by the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads the communiqué.

Governments, NGOs, charities

The press release notes that “thousands of healthcare facilities are functioning as they can without the safeguard of water that cleans and protects life.” However, some world leaders in the health field have become increasingly aware of this issue and are developing action plans to address the problem.

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has been a pioneer and extremely committed to health and health care on all continents in terms of its commitment to health and health care.

The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is consulting with religious congregations, episcopal conferences, Catholic development agencies and qualified experts in a concerted effort to “encourage and support those already actively involved in this battle to save lives.” 

A starting point

The communiqué specifically mentions a collaboration with Catholic Relief Services and Global Water 2020. It identifies these as partners in its commitment to promote investigations in selected countries. It notes that the results of this study, and other surveys, will be used as a starting point for implementation and fundraising plans to support operational projects.

Organisations interested in joining this initiative may contact the  Dicastery (from mid-April onwards) to request further information or discuss partnership opportunities.

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30 March 2020, 14:50