Pope Francis greets Sister Rita Mboshu Kongo, a theologian and member of the Daughters of Mary Most Holy, during a Mass for the Congolese Catholic community in Rome in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican  in 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
Pope Francis greets Sister Rita Mboshu Kongo, a theologian and member of the Daughters of Mary Most Holy, during a Mass for the Congolese Catholic community in Rome in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
The Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Spain is providing aid to nearly 70 religious communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo facing extreme poverty due to the coronavirus crisis.

ACN said that because of the pandemic and lockdown in the African country, they will extend urgent subsistence aid to 69 religious communities in the ecclesiastical province of Bukavu, located in eastern Congo.

The pontifical foundation noted that the pandemic has worsened the nuns’ already “extremely difficult” situation, in a country constantly suffering from ethnic conflicts, insecurity, armed incursions from neighboring countries, kidnappings and rapes.

"Since the state of emergency decreed by the president of the DRC on March 24, wages have been suspended," ACN explained.

Some of the religious sisters work in healthcare and that sector has lost income because it is compensated “according to the number of patients and now people are reluctant to go to the hospital for fear of being infected with the virus.”

"Those who work in schools would receive a part of what the students’ parents paid, but at a time when schools are closed due to COVID-19, they have also lost this income," the charitable organization lamented.

The Archbishop of Bukavu, François-Xavier Maroy, applied for aid from ACN, which responded by allocating 120,000 euros (about $140,000) to support 464 religious from six different congregations.

ACN's project director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Christine du Coudray, said that as a foundation it is obliged "to give them relief in their destitution, relief that they will know how to multiply to those people more dispossessed than they are," in a country that "has lived under smoldering conflict for 20 years."

"When the conflicts have made all the NGOs flee, the Church and especially the religious sisters remain close to the most disadvantaged population, like anonymous good souls, in accordance with the spirit of Mother Teresa," she added.

ACN noted its support for sisters is an addition to the work that it has already been doing in the country with the aid provided to priests, who because of the lack of Sunday collections and other resources have no means to survive on or carry on their pastoral work.

"Now that their parishioners are confined to their homes, life has become more difficult for everyone because most of the people are unemployed (around 96% of the population) and live only on what they get from day to day,” lamented the bishop of the diocese of Mbuji-Mayi, Bernard-Emmanuel Kasanda.

The novice master of the Congregation of Labor Chaplains, Father Clemente Mwehu Muteba thanked ACN for its support and said that with the financial help he has been able to pay for fuel to continue his apostolate at his chapel in Lubumbashi, in the province of Alto Katanga and but also to pay "for some paper to meet the needs for the formation of the young people."

Another member of the congregation of chaplains, Father Alain Mwila Wa Ilunga, said that it‘s a real relief to receive this financial support, which he has decided to share “with the most helpless and the poor who are sick so they can nourish themselves with their daily bread.”