“Unfortunately in Italy there is no knowledge of the charitable activities of the Italian Church, not even among Italians. But when we visit these places, we realize that it is a constant, significance presence that changes the lives of many people.” Matteo Calabresi is the coordinator of the Promotion Service for Financial Support to the Church with funds donated through the “8x1000” tax scheme. He is part of a delegation of FISC journalists (Italian Catholic press Federation), to Armenia to report on the “good news” of projects implemented with “8x1000” funds. This dedicated commitment throughout Armenia focuses on support to children and old people, the most vulnerable population brackets, with an increasing number of youths leaving the Country as a result of severe unemployment rates. This exodus is emptying entire villages. With 8×1000 funds Caritas workers succeeded in implementing a home care project in Artashat for the elderly and the “Little Prince” centre, providing protection and support to children and their families, along with the Day Care Centre for the elderly and the “Hot Winter” project, ensuring household heating in Gyumri. The Redemptions Mater Hospital in Ashotsk, run by the Camillian Fathers, providing assistance and health care services to 13,000 people in an isolated and abandoned area.
Mr. Calabresi, what impressed you the most about this land?
The degree of poverty can be compared to that of less developed countries: something I didn’t expect to see. But the loneliness characterising people’s lives, especially the elderly, left a deep impression on me. South America or Africa are unquestionably facing extreme poverty, yet there is always an extended family that reaches out. Here we saw utter loneliness. We met extremely dignified people.
How do you select the projects eligible for funding? A lot can be done with the sums we donate every year for charitable interventions in Third World countries, with an overall cost of 40 million Euros. The procedures are clear: NGOs submit a request for charity projects in Third world countries to the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), coordinated by the local Church. The request is examined by a dedicated Committee. If approved, with a transparent and accountable procedure, the money for the project is transferred in instalments.
Of course, there is always more that could be done. The needs of charity are endless.
The interventions of the Catholic Church are among the most relevant in the world. I have been doing this job for 10 years; I had a first-hand experience of countless projects implemented worldwide and I must say that through the Catholic Church Italians are present in the world’s poorest places: from Madagascar to Brazil.
Before the evils of the world, these projects – although important – seem like a drop in the ocean. Do you feel discouraged?
Why should I? On the contrary, when such beautiful projects take shape I return full of hope.
People know very little about these projects. It’s almost as if in Italy there were a certain reluctance to speak about projects funded under the 8×1000 tax donation scheme. How do you plan to overcome it?
We have been reflecting on this question for years. It can be compared to a family whose children know nothing about the way in which the money is being spent. But we are not children and we should all reflect on how the Church implements the projects we see or how the oratories our children attend are funded.
Nobody wonders how these expenses are paid for.
How are you addressing this issue?
We are encouraging informative courses in all parishes. Researches show that on the one hand the faithful don’t ask out of discretion, and on the other the priests find it difficult to broach the subject because they’re afraid to tackle an uneasy issue. But we have seen that when, thanks to diocesan coordinators, these formative courses are carried out, the feedback is always positive.
People realize that there is nothing to hide, no skeleton in the closet, thereby rediscovering a new trust-based relationship.