Holy Father Calls Attention to ‘Social Wounds’ in El Salvador

Combating Poverty: Pope Benedict Raises Awareness to the Need of Social Aid Missions in El Salvador
by Catholic.net Staff Writer | Source:
“Increasing violence is the immediate consequence of other, deeper social wounds, such as poverty, the lack of education, the progressive loss of those values that have always forged the Salvadoran soul, and the breakup of families,” said Pope Benedict XVI during the recent ad limina visits of El Salvador’s bishops.

These words were deeply understood by Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo, LC., president of
Catholic World Mission (CWM), which serves the poor in several Latin American countries, including El Salvador.

This Central American country has seen rapid growth, but average annual income is still only $4,910, according to the World Bank. Even that figure – just 13% of average income in the United States – can be misleading because 20% of El Salvador’s people control well over half the wealth.

Sixty percent live on one, two or three dollars a day, according Earth Trends data. For these people, life is a crisis. Infant mortality triples that in the United States, and 12% have no access to safe water. World Food Program data reveals that hunger is a constant threat.

Thirty percent of the children in El Salvador’s schools are malnourished. And 45% of the children never attend school.

The literacy rate in this country is the third lowest in the Americas. UNESCO found that only one in five people in El Salvador can read.

Despite the problems, Bishop Elizondo believes in the hardworking, family-centered spirit of the Salvadorans – factors noted by other international development authorities, both secular and religious. And it was both material and spiritual welfare that prompted CWM to construct its “Living Stones” CIDECO community near the industrial corridor in La Herradura.

Said CWM Executive Director Ryan Flood, “We see this ongoing project as a model of how to build progress into the lives of the poor. The factories have employees who have trained hard and are ready to work. They have solid families to support and will remain in the area because they are paying mortgages.

“At the same time, Catholic World Mission wants a model that encourages Catholic faith, supports family life, and educates children in Catholic schools. Our Living Stones CIDECO community helps people materially and spiritually. At the same time, it shows one way El Salvador can lift itself economically.”

Pope Benedict also linked the spiritual and material needs of the poor when he spoke to the Salvadoran bishops about poverty in their country. “Man is not just the product of the material and social conditions in which he lives,” he said. “Man needs God; otherwise, he remains without hope.”

Therefore, attempts to relieve material and social suffering must be accompanied by what the Holy Father called “ambitious and audacious evangelization.” That too is a primary goal of CWM’s work in El Salvador. If you would like to learn more or are interested in making a gift please visit our website at www.catholicworldmission.org or call 1-800-961-8153.


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