Vatican City (30 April 2016) — Nearly 9,000 members of Rotary from across the globe attended the Jubilee Audience at the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square on 30 April 2016 at the invitation of Pope Francis. At the end of the Audience, a delegation of Rotary members - led by Rotary International President K.R. Ravindran - met Pope Francis where he 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 to encourage their support of a more peaceful and compassionate world.
“It is a tremendous honor to be part of this Jubilee Audience,” said Ravindran. “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 promoting peace, fighting disease, ending polio , 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 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year in 1988, to 74 confirmed in 2015. Since launching its PolioPlus program in 1985, Rotary has donated US$1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from polio. More than 13 million people are able to walk today, who would otherwise have been paralyzed from polio.
Pope Francis personally vaccinated a child against polio in Mexico this past February. While he was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was named an honorary member of Rotary – making him the first known pope to receive and accept a Rotary club membership.
Pope Francis thanks Rotary for its efforts to end polio and urges Rotary members to continue vaccination campaigns.