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New Custodian of the Holy Land

May 20, 2016. Friar Francesco Patton is the new Custodian of the Holy Land. He succeeds Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who was in office for the last 12 years. Friar Francesco Patton is 52 years old from Vigo Meano (Italy). He graduated in Communication Sciences from the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome and until now was the provincial minister of the Order of Friars Minor in Saint Vigilius of Trent.

The U.N. World Food Program has repeatedly said that half the population in Syria is at risk of malnourishment. They also predict that in 2014, the number of refugees will surpass three million.

The nearly three-year conflict is pushing the people fleeing Syria to a breaking point. As they challenges grow, Card. Robert Sarah, president for the Pontifical Cor Unum Council, and Secretary Giampiero Dal Toso, witnessed them first hand. The Council is in charge of carrying out the Pope's charitable projects. In December, he traveled to Lebanon to see in person the challenges refugees face, and to listen to the needs of Syrian bishops. 

GIAMPIERO DAL TOSO
Secretary, Pontifical Council Cor Unum
"That was the first gathering of Syrian bishops in 20 months. It's clear that this state of war makes even communication difficult. The proof is that we had to hold this meeting in Beirut and not in Damascus. But I have to say that the high attendance shows bishop's wishes to see each other, to share with each other their concerns and their reflection about this ongoing situation.”

They also visited one of the mobile clinics that are part of a health mission set up by the Cor Unum Council, in collaboration with Bambino Gesù Hospital and Caritas Syria. In its first phase, they will treat over 4,000 refugee children in Lebanon, a country that has received nearly a million Syrian refugees.

GIAMPIERO DAL TOSO
Secretary, Pontifical Council Cor Unum
"If you think about it. There are one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. But Lebanon is a country with 4 or 5 million people. So we're talking about an enormous presence in a relatively small country. So the impact of this crisis in a country like Lebanon, and probably in other countries, is very strong.”

Because of the impact, any form of assistance can have great results on the ground. The Pontifical Cor Unum Council coordinates 42 Catholic aid agencies. Their work has become a light at the end of a very dark tunnel for many people holding out to hope that the war will end soon.


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