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Two projects of the Coptic Catholic Church for disadvantaged children. Msgr. Gaid: “A fruit of the Abu Dhabi Document”

The Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt is carrying out two projects to restore the dignity, serenity, health and safety of Cairo's street children. Both are the result of the Document on Human Fraternity, signed in 2019 in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb. The Oasis of Mercy Orphanage is on track, while construction works of the Bambino Gesù Women's and Children's Hospital will begin in August

(Foto: ANSA/SIR)

The Cairo-based Bambino Gesù non-profit association was inaugurated on 21 July 2020 in Rome, at the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Italy. It was founded by Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, an Egyptian Coptic Catholic priest, who also chairs the Association whose purpose is to implement two major projects in the New Administrative Capital of Egypt, 45 km east of the current capital Cairo, covering an area of 700 square kilometres: the Oasis of Mercy Orphanage and the Bambino Gesù Women’s and Children’s Hospital. These two projects, Msgr. Gaid told SIR, have been “conceived by the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt. They are the fruits of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi”, at the presence of the young prelate who at the time served as Personal Secretary of His Holiness Pope Francis after having been vice-parish priest at the Santa Domitilla Church in Latina. He held this post from April 2014 to 31 July last year. He is now Representative of the Holy See in the High Committee for Human Fraternity, together with Card. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The Committee is tasked with transforming the aspirations of the Document into concrete projects and actions. What is the specific nature of these two projects, and what stage has been reached in their implementation? We posed this question to Msgr. Gaid prior to the Association’s first “birthday”, due to be celebrated on the evening of 22 July, at the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Italy, in the presence of Ambassador Omar Obaid Alshamsi. A letter from Italian President Sergio Mattarella will be read during the ceremony.

The first stone of the orphanage was laid in August last year,” the prelate explained. “We have now completed 60 per cent of the construction works, due to end in 2022, but this naturally depends on the funding expected to be forthcoming. The construction of the hospital will start in August. The preliminary stages and the executive project have been completed: it took a year to obtain all the necessary authorisations.” “Procedures were extremely complex”, since it is a hospital. “The internationally oriented project, supervised by the Bambino Gesù paediatric hospital in Rome, was developed in compliance with international standards and in accordance with Egyptian regulations.” Mariella Enoc, president of the Bambino Gesù in Rome, is at the head of the scientific committee overseeing the realisation of the project. The hospital in Cairo will be closely collaborating with the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome, following a memorandum of understanding establishing cooperation in the area of medical care and continued clinical and specialized medical training.

Oasis of Mercy. Going into the details, Msgr. Gaid explained that

the orphanage was created to provide a home, regardless of religious affiliation, to the numerous orphaned or abandoned children living on the streets of Cairo, without birth certificates or documents, who face diseases, exploitation, abuse and violence of all kinds every day.

The Oasis, owned by the Coptic Catholic Church, will accommodate them to offer them protection, education, schooling and a peaceful environment. A statue of Blessed Charles Acutis, blessed by the Holy Father on March 17, will be erected in the chapel. “We don’t expect to solve the problem,” said Msgr. Gaid, “but we can’t just stay on the sidelines. We can accommodate up to a total of 200 minors; to them at least we want to offer them a true opportunity for human, spiritual, social and professional growth” so as to accompany them towards independence and help them “become proactive persons.” To this end, it is essential for the young guests to feel at home, members of a family. They will be thus be divided into small groups of six and entrusted to a young couple or to an educator. In this way, despite sharing the same facility,

the children will enjoy the warmth of a real home”.

Bambino Gesù Women’s and Children’s Hospital. However, since in all likelihood the children will be needing medical care, a flagship paediatric healthcare centre will provide basic and advanced medical care for all children who should need it, as well as health assistance and support to expectant mothers in a context characterised by a high birth rate but also by a high rate of neonatal, infant and maternal mortality. Women will be cared for from the moment of conception throughout their pregnancy, during delivery and after childbirth, until discharge from the hospital, which aims to be

a paediatric centre of excellence leading the way in cutting-edge technology in the region and connected to the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome.

Name and logo. The name of the Association, orphanage and hospital was inspired by the donation of a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà statue by Pope Francis, “autographed” by the Pontiff. Since these initiatives are intended for children, it was decided to replace in the logo the body of Christ deposed from the Cross with the image of the infant Jesus.

“The two projects reflect the spirit of the Abu Dhabi Document. However, it should be said that the educational and medical facilities of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt have historically been open to all in the name of universal human fraternity.

The signing of the Document provided further impetus, triggering a different spirit throughout the Middle East, which we aim to nurture and foster”, said Msgr. Lahzi Gaid. This is also the purpose of the House of Abraham on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, “a project inaugurated in New York in 2019 of which 20% of the work has already been completed. This project, for the first time in history, includes not only a study centre, but also a church, a synagogue and a mosque in the same place – explained the prelate, member of the High Committee that promoted it – thus showing that despite our differences, we are called to live as brothers and sisters, as the Pope asked of us in “Fratelli tutti“. For Egypt to be a gateway to hope, unity and the future, the orphanage and the hospital will require the generosity of many donors to support them via a bank transfer to the Bambino Gesù Association of Cairo Onlus – please find the details below.

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