• From Rotary International
Nearly 9,000 Rotarians from around the world attended the “Jubilee Audience” in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on April 30 at the invitation of Pope Francis. Afterward, meeting with a delegation led by RI President K.R. Ravindran, the pope emphasized the importance of vaccinations against polio and urged Rotary to continue.
Pope Francis follows Paul VI and John Paul II in connecting with Rotary International to encourage their support of a more peaceful and compassionate world.
“It is a tremendous honor to be part of this Jubilee Audience,” Ravindran said. “Pope Francis has inspired men and women throughout the world regardless of their faith with his humble acts of kindness. His call to alleviate the root causes of extreme poverty and human suffering transcends religion, age, nationalism and politics. Rotary members from every religion, nation and creed share Pope Francis’ spirit of mercy and compassion, which inspires us to act boldly to address the most difficult challenges facing our world today.”
By virtually ending polio, promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene, supporting education, saving mothers and children and growing local economies, Rotary members are improving lives and bringing positive, lasting change to communities around the world.
Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are on the brink of making global health history as polio is slated to become the second human disease ever to be eliminated. Cases of this paralyzing but vaccine preventable disease have plummeted by more than 99.9%, from about 350,000 cases a year in 1988, to 74 confirmed in 2015.
Since launching its PolioPlus program in 1985, Rotary has donated $1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from polio. More than 13 million people who would otherwise have been paralyzed from polio today are able to walk.
Pope Francis personally vaccinated a child against polio in Mexico in February. While he was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was named an honorary member of Rotary, the first pope to receive and accept a Rotary club membership.