Iraqis prepare for another war. this time it's Covid-19

Life is so unfair. Just when you think a displaced person's world can't get any worse here in northern Iraq, along comes a virus that threatens to be the biggest disaster of all. For almost six years, hundreds of thousands of Yazidi men, women and children have lived a truly miserable life. 

First the monsters of Daesh (ISIS) attacked their towns and villages. Thousands were killed and thousands more women and girls were kidnapped, raped and sold as slaves. The rest managed to escape. But they left behind their homes, their precious possessions, their jobs. Their lives changed beyond recognition for ever. 

Since then, the majority have been forced to live in the sprawling displacement camps. For years now they have slept under canvas, on hard concrete floors. Sanitation is basic. This part of Iraq is dreadfully cold in winter and insanely hot in summer - it is sometimes more than 50c! 

It is the perfect breeding ground for sickness. Now we are faced with COVID-19. In an environment like this, it will spread like wildfire unless we take every possible precaution. It is a race against time. Here in Khanke Camp, on the outskirts of the city of Dohuk, we have been working non-stop. 

Khanke is home to more than 15000 people, and there are almost double that amount of people living as IDPs around the perimeters. I manage the only health centre here, which is run by the UK-based charity The AMAR International Charitable Foundation ( 

We have a small staff of locally trained medical professionals - doctors, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists - and around 25 women health volunteers (WHVs). 

For the last week we have all been working non-stop to try educate the entire camp about how to keep COVID-19 at bay. The place is already over-crowded and there can be as many as 10 people sharing just one tent. 

All our teams are out from first light, visiting people and giving them as much information as we possibly can. The biggest message is of course to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Something that is very easy to do when you have access to a proper bathroom and running water, but not so easy here. 

But people are scared, so they are really getting the message. They understand the need to distance and to stay away from others as much as they can. Our clinic is staying open six days a week, and we get up to 200 patients a day. Gastric infections are commonplace of course, as is flu, hypertension, chronic anxiety and depression. 

Now every patient is given a lesson in how to keep themselves safe from COVID-19. Everyone knows it's a threat. They all see it on the news, so they are eager to find out any way they can to protect themselves. 

My staff too - like medics around the world - are frightened they could be the first to develop the symptoms. They all have families. Most are the sole providers. If they get sick, what will happen they ask me. We all take every possible precaution. But access to PPE is limited. The Dohuk Health Directorate supply us, but they have limited stocks of masks, gowns, gloves. 

Certainly nowhere near enough to supply the population of the entire camp. We need outside help and support. Right now. We have done what we can. The rest is up to god. We pray COVID-19 will not make it here. 

by Dr Khalil Abdul Kareem, Manager, AMAR ICF Clinic, Khanke Camp, Iraq.


WHO expects Iraq’s coronavirus cases to rise sharply within 10 days

Iraq’s coronavirus cases will sharply rise within the next 10 days, the World Health Organisation said, as the death toll in the country climbed to 51 on Wednesday. Iraq, struggling to cope with a devastated health system, has 697 known infections, making it one of the worst-affected countries in the region. 

Because testing is limited many believe the number to be much higher. Dr Adham Ismail, the WHO's representative in Iraq, said the increase in testing will be of “high importance in terms of infection transmission and control”. 

The WHO says the figures are “still moderate so far but expects a spike in the coming weeks” because of the increase in testing. A total of 169 recoveries have been confirmed in the past 24 hours. Most confirmed patients have travelled to badly affected destinations such as Iran, China and Europe.  

“Three laboratories became operational for Covid-19 testing in Najaf, Basra and Baghdad Medical City in Baghdad," the WHO said. "This has increased the numbers of tested cases to more than 4,500 tests a day, compared to a maximum of 100 a day a few weeks ago." 

The eruption of the virus in neighbouring Iran increased the likelihood of the disease spreading in Iraq, the organisation said. “It necessitated faster prevention and infection control measures, especially in the holy cities and pilgrimage sites, bordering governorates and vulnerable communities in internally displaced people and refugee camps.” 

The spokesman for Iraq’s Health Ministry, Said Al Badr, said on Wednesday that the health sector lacked equipment, staff and preparation for the outbreak. “Until now we are controlling the situation but will face a series of challenges if our requests are not met by the government,” Mr Al Badr said. 

The ministry has appealed for help from the government in Baghdad several times and claims it has little funding to combat the crisis. Health Minister Jaafar Allawi requested $5 million (Dh18.3m) in emergency funds from the government after Iraq recorded its first case, but received no answer. 

Mr Allawi had to turn to a Shiite cleric for assistance. “There is no money and we are in a difficult situation,” Mr Allawi told the cleric in a video shared widely online. More than 4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Iraq. 

Many people, especially the most vulnerable, are unable to independently meet their basic needs such as food and shelter, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. “We fear the worst for people in prisons and displacement camps,” Jessica Moussan of the ICRC told The National. 

"Physical distancing is a privilege that is simply not available to people in these places. “People who have been displaced are often already vulnerable to health complications, while detention facilities that are overcrowded pose an extra challenge in preventing or containing infectious diseases." 

The development coincides with the arrival in Baghdad this week of Brig Gen Esmail Qaani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. It is Brig Qaani’s first public visit since he succeeded Qassem Suleimani, who was assassinated in early January. 

He landed at Baghdad’s international airport as the outbreak of the virus forced authorities to impose a curfew and halt all incoming and outgoing flights. Suleimani visited Iraq regularly during its political and social crises, and had strong relations with the country’s religious and political factions. 

He was known for his ability to make even Iraqi rivals hash out their differences and forge unity during times of political paralysis. Prime minister-designate Adnan Al Zurfi has several weeks to form a new cabinet and present it to Parliament for approval. But Mr Al Zurfi is having difficulty swaying powerful Shiite political parties to vote in his favour. 

by Mina Aldroubi


Co-op worker ‘fights for life’ in COVID-19 coma

"When I see what happened to my wife in literally hours. No-one should be going out." This was the devastated warning of a husband whose wife is fighting for her life after contracting COVID-19. 

Steve Hill has now raised concerns about the conditions in Keynsham Co-op where his partner worked until she fell ill on March 24. Until she went home sick, she worked without any personal protection equipment, such as gloves or masks, her husband Steve Hill said. 

Clare has been in a coma in intensive care for five days. Steve says the deadly disease spread rapidly, reports Somerset Live. “In 72 hours she went from a happy, middle-aged woman to someone fighting for her life,” he told ITV News. 

“She was just doing her job like everyone else. These people should have had protection two or three weeks ago.” Southern Co-op, which manages the store, has been following advice from Public Health England (PHE) and the Association of Convenience Stores. 

A spokesperson for the chain said health officials have confirmed there is no need to close and asymptomatic staff could continue working. Gloves, hand sanitiser and protective screens are being rolled out in stores 'as fast as possible' , but not masks as government advice currently says these serve little use outside of a clinical setting. 

Steve Hill told ITV News: “She came home from work a week ago with a headache. She went to bed and she stayed in bed Wednesday because she was still feeling a bit rough. “I phoned 111, but she didn’t show any of the other symptoms at that point so they said to just keep an eye on her. 

“Thursday night she developed a cough. I phoned 111 again Friday morning and we ended up taking her into hospital that afternoon." “We have got the biggest pandemic crisis for centuries and people are expected to go to work without gloves and masks. 

“That’s not just the way Clare works, that’s throughout the country.” Mr Hill urged everybody to follow the advice to stay at home unless absolutely essential. “People aren’t aware of what this can do to you in such a short space of time,” he said. 

“When I see what happened to my wife in literally hours. No-one should be going out." 

‘We’re deeply saddened’ 

Southern Co-op has provided a full statement on the situation and details the measures it is taking. A spokeswoman said: 

“This is a challenging time for us all and we’re deeply saddened that one of our colleagues at our Keynsham store has been hospitalised with COVID-19. We have offered our support to her family and wish her a full and speedy recovery. 

“We do understand this is an incredibly concerning period for all and our stores are providing a critical role in keeping our communities fed during the pandemic so it is vital that they remain open. 

“We're following advice from Public Health England (PHE) and the Association of Convenience Stores in terms of colleagues and deep cleaning. PHE stated: 

‘There is no need for your stores to close should one of the staff members working there test positive for COVID-19. There is also no need for any asymptomatic staff who have been in contact with a confirmed case to stop coming in to work.’ 

“Having said that, we would like to emphasise that if colleagues exhibit even the mildest of symptoms of COVID-19, they are required to self-isolate immediately in line with Government advice. As part of our initial response to this outbreak, we also implemented additional tighter cleaning measures being undertaken on a daily basis." 

“We take the health of our colleagues and customers extremely seriously and we will continue to follow Government advice and to take the necessary steps to ensure everyone’s ongoing protection and safety whilst working in or visiting our stores." 

“We have faced significant delays beyond our control in obtaining additional gloves and hand sanitiser, as national supplies we suspect are being redeployed to NHS frontline staff in the first instance."

Are face masks needed? 

The official government position is that face masks are not beneficial outside of clinical situations. The Co-op and other supermarkets have been relying on this guidance. However, not all academics agree. We approached a scientist at the University of Bath for an expert opinion. 

Dr Nick Longrich, senior lecturer in Evolutionary Biology, said: “There is strong scientific evidence to suggest that medical masks are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

“A systematic review of research on the SARS coronavirus found that face masks were highly effective in preventing people from catching the virus, and a study of a group of medical personnel at a university hospital in Wuhan found that when used along with procedures like disinfection and hand-washing, none of the doctors and nurses wearing N-95 masks contracted the COVID-19 virus."  

“Countries where mask-using is common, like China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, have also been able to control their outbreaks more effectively than western countries." 

“So the evidence seems to suggest that face masks work. Given the current situation with supplies of PPE, we need to think very carefully about the best way to use what we have, but the scientific evidence suggests more widespread adoption of facemasks could slow the spread of the disease.” 

By Elise Britten and Emma Grimshaw


Clap for our carers and protect key workers

This evening will see people across the UK give another round of applause but this week is for key workers in other sectors like retail, bin men etc. 

If you are taking part in this evenings #clapforourcarers, have you asked a non NHS key worker - or their management team - the following questions: 

Has a risk assessment - a legal requirement - been carried out on workers and their workplaces? ✔️❌ 

Are the public and workplace following Government Guidelines - a legal requirement - regarding Social Distancing and hygiene? ✔️❌ 

Have staff been issued with any protective equipment - a legal requirement - if they are coming into contact with members of the public? ✔️❌ 

Are worker's in a Trade Union and what have the Trade Unions done for paying members? (Please see the Trades Description Act, as worker's may wish to consider legal action against Trade Unions)✔️❌ 

The Covid-19 virus does not contain itself to people's homes or NHS hospitals. COVID-19 is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact routes.


Iraqi doctors warn of healthcare collapse if Coronavirus continues to rise

Iraqi doctors have warned that their country's crumbling healthcare infrastructure could collapse completely if the number of coronavirus cases seen in Europe or neighbouring Iran is seen in Iraq. 

Wracked by years of war and civil unrest, and with collapsing oil prices squeezing limited resources, there are fears about what the next few weeks could bring for Iraq. 

Ghaith Ghaffuri is an internist at the Shahid as-Sadi hospital in the middle of Baghdad's sprawling Sadr City neighbourhood. He told Middle East Eye that despite the best efforts of workers, Iraq's healthcare system would not be able to endure a massive spike in cases. 

"If we get numbers like you get in the UK or in Spain or Italy, we will fall down," he said. "It's all about the numbers - if the number rises up to 10,000, let's say, we won't even have enough beds to put people in and of course we won't have the ventilators for the badly-infected people." 

On Monday, the Iraqi health ministry reported 630 cases of the Covid-19 virus and 46 deaths, giving the country the second highest death toll in the region, after Iran. Waad Alhafiz, a medical student and activist, explained the process for dealing with coronavirus infections. 

"We receive suspected cases, put them in a quarantine room, examine them and take a swab for a PCR test," he explained, referring to the polymerase chain reaction test used to detect new infections. "If they are positive we send them to the quarantine hospital."  

Iraq's deputy health minister, Jassim al-Falahi, told Al-Jazeera over the weekend that the country's healthcare system was “resilient”, but the data suggests the country may struggle if numbers keep rising. 

The country's healthcare spending, at around $153 per capita annually, is less than half that of neighbouring Iran, which has itself been severely struggling to contain the crisis, while according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 8.2 doctors for every 10,000 people in Iraq. 

According to figures compiled by the health ministry in 2018, Iraq had 799 intensive care beds compared to around 4,000 in the United Kingdom, a country less than twice the size of Iraq, and one that has also seen its healthcare system straining. 

The WHO has estimated there are, in general, 14 hospital beds in Iraq for every 10,000 people. 

Although resources are available to manage the current intake of infections, there are fears that the number of infected could be much higher, as only around 2,000 people have been tested out of Iraq's 40 million-strong population - placing a much greater burden on an already creaking and underfunded system. 

Curfews ignored 

In order to combat the spread of the virus, the government has imposed a countrywide lockdown until 11 April, closing schools, universities, shopping centres, airports and other large gathering places. 

But despite the curfew, there has been scant attention paid in some parts of the country. Last week, Baghdad Operations Command announced that 1,542 individuals had been arrested and 557 vehicles seized since 17 March. 

The most high profile incident took place on 21 March, when tens of thousands of worshippers defied the curfew in order to commemorate Musa al-Kadhim, streaming down the streets of Baghdad to the 8th century Imam's mausoleum. 

Alhafiz said the failure of Iraqis to take the recommendations on social distancing seriously was frustrating the efforts to tackle the pandemic. "When the people are at the hospital they take it seriously, but when they go away from the building they don’t," he told MEE. 

"Also most people don’t have protective equipment and they don’t know how to protect themselves. For example, many of them came to the hospital putting their hands on their face thinking that would protect them against the virus." 

He said that a major problem was a lack of literacy, meaning many were unable to follow the instructions being produced on how to cope with the virus. "Since 2003, we have many people that can’t read or write down their names," he said. 

"Illiteracy is killing people more than coronavirus." Ghaffuri said that while much of Baghdad was now observing curfews put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, locals where he worked in Sadr City - a suburb that makes up the vast majority of the capital's population - were largely ignoring social distancing advice. 

Markets in the densely populated area were still open, people were still gathering in restaraunts and coffee shops and smoking shisha. On Tuesday, Iraqi media began circulating photos of masked security forces deployed around the holy city of Karbala. 

The Al-Sumaria news channel said they had been deployed in anticipation of the religious festival of Mid-Shaban, in order to enforce the curfew and prevent a repeat of the Kadhim incident. 

Ghaffuri said health workers were already expecting the fallout from people ignoring the restrictions, and particularly mass commemoration for Kadhim, would be felt soon. "If those people who were at the shrine visit tested positive, they'll pass it to their neighbours, their families and this could reach around 500 new cases," he explained. 

'Just like World War Three' 

The coronavirus pandemic has produced an outpouring of support for the world's healthcare workers, who have been putting their lives at risk on the frontline while people have been encouraged to stay home and distance themselves from others. 

Despite the risks he and his colleagues were facing, Ghaffuri said that the whole ordeal has been - to a certain extent - "exciting". 

“I told my colleagues we have to imagine ourselves as soldiers, and this pandemic thing is just like World War Three. The whole world, everywhere from east to west, is depending on us to stop this and to recover the lives of other people, as much as we can,” he said. 

“So I don’t really feel worried as much as I feel excited to face this, to take it away and to finish it, so that one day when it’s over people can point to us and say: 'Those people helped us go back to our normal lives'." 

By Alex MacDonald


UK charity creates fund to support nurses struggling due to Covid-19

A nursing charity has created a new fund for staff facing financial hardship due to the coronavirus crisis following a spike in calls for help. 

The Cavell Nurses’ Trust has set aside additional funding for grants designed to help nursing and midwifery professionals who are struggling for money as a result of the epidemic. 

For example, nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants may fall into financial difficulty if they cannot work because they have to self-isolate. 

While most staff will get sick pay, agency workers may not have access to the same benefits. In addition, self-isolation could mean that staff are unable to top up their wages like they usually would through overtime or bank work. 

At the same time, a nursing or midwifery professional could find themselves struggling if their partner’s income suffers due to the coronavirus. 

John Orchard, chief executive at Cavell Nurses’ Trust, said the charity had seen an influx in requests for help since the Covid-19 outbreak began to escalate in the UK. 

He said: “In the last week or so we’ve been contacted by multiple nursing and midwifery professionals who have been affected and we expect more. We desperately want to help as much as our funding will allow."  

“As a society we rely on nurses, midwives and HCAs to be there for us and we should support them in return, especially in this the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. 

“More than three quarters of the nurses we support tell us we helped them get back to or stay in work.” 

Members of the public can also support the Cavell Nurses' Trust by donating here.

by Gemma Mitchell


Most Iraqis coming from Syria carry coronavirus, warns official

Most Iraqi citizens coming from Syria are infected with the coronavirus, the governor of Karbala, Nassif Al-Khattabi, warned yesterday. 

“On Saturday, the Karbala province recorded 11 cases of coronavirus, with a vast majority of the infections coming from Syria,” Al-Khattabi said in a video address to the province’s residents. 

He pointed out that Iraq had not been aware that Syria was affected by the coronavirus. “Not all of the Iraqi citizens coming from Syria have been quarantined over the past few weeks, despite the existence of quarantine centres.” 

Criticising the Syrian authorities for “not providing the necessary information about the number of infection cases in Syria,” the Iraqi official said that Karbala Province is “implementing a health and security campaign to track down all Iraqis who came from Syria recently.” 

On Sunday, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said that the number of people infected by the virus had risen to 547, adding that the death toll was standing at 42. On Wednesday, the Syrian regime announced three new confirmed cases. 

In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, the Iraqi authorities have taken measures including curfews, the closure of schools and universities, the suspension of flights and the closure of all public places such as parks, restaurants, cinemas and mosques. 

On Thursday, the government in Baghdad extended the nationwide curfew until 11 April. At least 739,385 people worldwide have contracted the virus, of whom more than 35,018 have died; 156,588 have recovered. The World Health Organisation has declared the crisis to be a pandemic.


Another clap for our carers to thank bin men and supermarket staff

ANOTHER round of applause is planned to thank workers 'keeping our world going' during the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, thousands of people across the UK, stopped to clap the NHS at 8pm. 

Now Annemarie Plas, who was behind the original campaign, wants the nation to clap for other key workers. This includes everyone from delivery drivers and teachers to vets and supermarket staff. 

Ms Plas said: "This time we will add everyone that is helping to keep our world turning. All who are out so we can stay in." It will take place on Thursday at 8pm and click here for more information

By Erin Lyons


Pope echoes UN call for a global ceasefire amid coronavirus pandemic

Pope Francis has endorsed an appeal issued by U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, calling Sunday for a global ceasefire to armed conflicts amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, allowing humanitarian aid to reach those most vulnerable to infection. 

In his March 23 appeal, Guterres called for the ceasefire, stressing that “the fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” 

“That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” he said, insisting that ceasefires would allow aid workers to reach people most vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus. 

Pope Francis echoed that call in his March 29 Angelus address, saying he welcomes the appeal and issuing an invitation for leaders everywhere “to follow-up by stopping all forms of war hostility.” 

Noting that the coronavirus “knows no borders,” he urged leaders to allow “the creation of corridors for humanitarian aid, the openness to diplomacy and attention to those who find themselves in situations of great vulnerability.” 

In his statement, Guterres said that it’s women, children, the disabled, marginalized, displaced and refugees who often suffer the most during war and conflict, he said these same groups are those most at risk of suffering “devastating losses” from COVID-19. 

He also stressed that healthcare systems in many countries marred by war and violent conflict are at the point of collapse, and the few workers who remain are often targets. 

Urging political leaders to “silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes,” Guterres said this is necessary in order to “help create corridors for life-saving aid. To open precious windows for diplomacy. To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” 

“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” he said, adding that this starts “by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.” 

As coronavirus numbers continue to rise globally, the United States has taken the lead for the total number of reported cases, arriving at 124,686 as of Saturday. 

Italy still holds the lead for fatalities. On Saturday, the country breached the 10,000 mark for coronavirus deaths, reporting 10,023, with a staggering increase of 889 in just one day, and 962 the day prior. 

Italy is also rapidly approaching the threshold of 100,000 cases, reporting a total of 92,472 so far, including the deceased, the 12,384 who have recovered, and those still receiving treatment. 

Although the number of infections is far lower in conflict areas in Africa and the Middle East, leaders in these regions are bracing for a spike in cases. Yemen itself, although it has no reported cases yet, has already implemented a ceasefire in its long civil war to allow humanitarian aid to reach vulnerable areas and doctors to prepare for a possible coronavirus outbreak. 

In his Sunday address, which was livestreamed due to quarantine restrictions, Pope Francis said a joint commitment against the COVID-19 pandemic allows everyone the opportunity “to recognize our need to strengthen fraternal bonds as members of the one human family.” 

“In particular, it can arouse a renewed commitment to overcoming rivalries among leaders of nations and other stakeholders,” he said, stressing that, “Conflicts are not resolved through war! It is necessary to overcome antagonism and contrast through dialogue and a constructive search for peace.” 

Francis also prayed for all those living in group settings, such as rest houses and barracks during the outbreak, making them more susceptible to risk, as well as those in prison, particularly prisons that are overcrowded. 

Warning that this could “become a tragedy” should an outbreak of the virus happen in these places, the pope asked relevant authorities to “to be sensitive to this problem and to take the necessary measures to avoid future tragedies.” 

As he has done since he began livestreaming his weekly audiences and speeches, Pope Francis went to the window where he usually leads the Angelus, waving to an empty square below. 

by Elise Ann Allen


‘There is a Gospel in the making on the streets’

While Rome is under lockdown, one person drives hundreds of miles a day through the empty streets of the Italian capital, picking up food from factories and businesses and delivering them personally to the city’s poor. 

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Polish prelate that leads Pope Francis’s charitable efforts, says he once dreamed of being a milkman. “Now my dream comes true,” he laughs, after loading another truck full of dairy products. 

Only this week the Polish cardinal drove cars full of food to two Roman convents where dozens of sisters are infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus. He also brought supplies to a senior home named after St. John XXIII. 

“Companies are giving away tons of food. We have to deliver it before it goes bad,” Krajewski told Crux. The Pontifical Villas Dairy Production from the Vatican’s Castel Gandolfo property outside of Rome donates fresh milk and yogurt every day. 

“Only on Saturday, I did 250 kilometers around the city - at least with empty streets I can drive without obstacles,” the cardinal said. 

For anyone who is worried that the cardinal himself could be infected - the incubation time for the coronavirus can be up to 14 days - he told Crux he was tested for COVID-19, and the results were negative. 

“I did it for the sake of the poor and people who work with me - they need to be safe,” he explained. Krajewski - known in the Vatican as “Don Corrado” - is the Papal Almoner, a post in charge of almsgiving in the city of Rome on behalf on the pope. 

The position has been given a new prominence under Francis, and Krajewski is widely seen as one of the pontiff’s closest collaborators. This has been especially true during the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Italy hard. 

His influence was demonstrated March 13, when he opened his titular church for Eucharistic adoration in defiance of a decree issued the day before, closing the doors of the churches in the Diocese of Rome. 

“Home should always be open to its children,” he told Crux immediately after his rebellious action. However, the decree was reversed later that same day, after an intervention by Francis. Krajewski’s parish is the street, and no virus will stop him from helping the poor. 

“I made a tour around the Roman parishes today,” he told Crux on Sunday. “I told them that washing the feet of those in need is like consecration during Eucharist.” He urged priests under lockdown to open their showers to the poor, “respecting all procedures of protection” from the coronavirus. 

“I went to one friary - I asked - how many of you are there? They said 20. It is 20 men that can serve the poor! We don’t need to put our lay volunteers in danger, the Churchmen can do it!” Krajewski told Crux. 

The Polish cardinal stressed that prayer without alms these days is “incomplete,” adding that Francis has set the example. “Before Urbi et Orbi on Friday, the Holy Father gave 30 respirators to hospitals, then he prayed for the world,” the Papal Almoner said. 

Krajewski also has a special message to the hundreds of priests from around the world studying at the pontifical universities in Rome: “Put away the theology books for now - there is a Gospel in the making on the streets.” 

The cardinal says that “miracles are happening these days,” recalling one parish pastor telling him on a Sunday morning: “I needed your kick to get into action.” He practices what he preaches, even in his own apartment. 

Two homeless people and a Muslim woman regularly prepare sandwiches for the city’s poor in his home above the Almoner’s office inside the Vatican. His furniture once belonged to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now known as Pope emeritus Benedict XVI: 

“It is a home church,” the cardinal added with a smile. “For the first time I heard from the poor these days - we are hungry,” he said during his Sunday Mass, said privately in the Vatican. “There is no place to go for them to ask for help - bars and restaurants are closed.” 

Urging priests to go out and serve the poor, he said: “We have two hands, the intelligence of the Gospel: We only lack a little courage.” Krajewski finding creative new ways to help the poor and keep safe from COVID-19 at the same time. 

He has adjusted the distribution of meals for the needy and homeless he was organizing twice a week at Roman trains stations, so they are now packed ahead of time into “bags from the heart” and don’t require volunteers to hand out individually. 

When asked whether he was afraid of being infected during his work, he jokingly answered with a Polish proverb: “There isn’t a risk that the devil will touch the bad guy.” 

by Paulina Guzik


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