1 – History

« Misereor Turbae (I have compassion for these people) » Matthieu 15-32.

This was the cry that gushed one day from Jesus’ heart before a multitude of hungry men, women and children (more than five thousand according to the Gospel) after following him for several days.

In 1980, while Sahel Countries were literally consumed by rigours of an implacable drought, a voice raised, waking up the consciousness of a world watching powerless or unconcerned, the horrible spectacle of lands becoming infertile and hungry populations.

This voice was the voice of the Pope John Paul II. The 10 May 1980, while setting foot for the first time on the sahelian soil, moved by the ecological desolation he discovered in the reality, beyond the cliché of the television, the Holy Father made a historic call from Ouagadougou.

This cry was an alarm and a call for help launched by His Holiness the Pope John Paul II. Today this call still resonates and its multiple effects can still be felt in this part of the world.

Listen to the call of Pope John Paul II the 10 May 1980.


By speaking to the world the Pope drew our attention to the terrible drought that was hitting the countries of Sahel.

In his famous homily pronounced in the cathedral of Ouagadougou, John Paul II stated: “From here, Ouagadougou, from the middle of one of these countries we can call the countries of thirst, may I be allowed to launch to everybody, in Africa and beyond this continent, a solemn appeal not to close the eyes in front of what happened and what’s happening in the sahelian region.”

In front of his eyes was indeed extending an immense stretch of dried, naked, arid soils, flogged by long years without rain, threatened by a rapid and an increasingly severe desertification.

In front of his yes, he had the victims of this climatic tragedy: he was seeing an immense crowd tried by suffocating winds; men, women and children famed because the soil refused them any food for years; but also deprived from the most basic dignity.

This tragedy took in his voice a dimension beyond the Sahel’s borders: it was the tragedy of the entire humanity, the formers because they were suffering in their flesh and in their hearts, the others because they lacked of the most basic solidarity, charity, toward their human brothers.

The Pope launched a more vibrant appeal, invoking his quality of Vicar of Christ, which happens only in the most severe situations. From a tone mixed with anxiety, vigour and supplication, he said:
 “this is why, from this very place, from the capital of Upper Volta (actual Burkina Faso), I launch a solemn appeal to the entire world. I, John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, raise my imploring voice, because I can’t conceal myself when my brothers and sisters are threatened. I made myself the voice of those who don’t have a voice, the voice of innocents, who died because of the lack of water and bread; the voice of fathers and mothers who witnessed the death of their children without understanding, or will always see their children with the permanent consequences of the hunger their suffered; the voice of the upcoming generations, who must never live with this horrible threat to their lives anymore. I launch an appeal to everybody.”
Few months later (November 1980), the Pope launched the same appeal in Germany. His voice triggered a huge wave of solidarity and donations, first tangible stone of what would become the John Paul II “Fondation pour le Sahel”.

The different steps for the creation of this Foundation were the subject of several consultations between the Holy See, the Bishops of Sahel and the German Episcopate:

5 November 1981: the Holy Father said to the Bishops of Sahel “I wish for a concrete development in the region of Sahel… and for it to remain the efficacious sign of my love for my most tried African brothers.”

February 1982: the Bishops of Western Africa are appointed to study how to achieve this development.

16 May 1983: small meeting in Rome to submit a draft. Draft articles are submitted for revision to different countries.

Finally, the 22 February 1984, the Foundation is born; its birth is formalized by John Paul II himself: pontifical letter establishing the creation of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel.
“With deep satisfaction I have learned that the appeal I addressed on 10 May 1980 at Ouagadougou on behalf of the population of the Sahel, harshly stricken by increasing aridity and drought, has had a wider international response. Numerous faithful, particularly in the Federal Republic of Germany, moved by sincere feelings of universal solidarity and by true Christian spirit, have generously offered their contribution in order to relieve the sufferings of their African brothers and sisters.

Having considered then that in spite of the many initiatives of governments and of the international community the situation persists in its seriousness, after consulting my brothers in the Episcopate of the region of the Sahel, it seemed opportune to give a more organic, permanent and effective form to the Church’s aid intended for Sahel in a spirit of charity, authentic human promotion and collaboration with all the organizations committed to aid programmes.

To this end, by virtue of my supreme apostolic authority in the Church, and my sovereignty in Vatican City State, in keeping with canons 331, 114 par. 1, 115 par. 3, and 116 par. 1 of the Code of Canon Law, article 1 of the fundamental Law of Vatican City of 7 June 1929, and article 1 letter a) of the Law of sources of rights of 7 June 1929 II, I erect the autonomous Foundation “Fondation John-Paul II pour le Sahel” as a public canonical juridical person and as a civil juridical person, with its seat in Vatican City State.

The Foundation will be governed by the canonical laws and civil laws in effect in Vatican City and by the annexed Statutes with I now approve.

In erecting this Foundation, I wish it to be the sign and testimony of a work of charity done in the name of Christ in this Holy Year of the Redemption.
Given in Rome on 22 February, Feast of the Chair of St Peter the Apostle, in the year 1984, the sixth of the Pontificate.”

6 March 1984: the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel is officially established.
Because of its legal status, its head office is located in the Vatican City but its governance is entrusted to the Bishops of Sahel: a first in a world who opposes North and South so often, the beneficiaries will manage themselves the allocated budget and will determine its mode of use.


2 – Mission

The main mission of the John Paul II Foundation is to promote the training of men and women at the service of their country and their fellow citizen, without social, philosophic or religious discrimination. These field stakeholders are dedicated to offer a real development for mankind, to fight against the desertification and its causes, to rescue the drought’s victims in the nine countries of Sahel: the Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad.

For more than a quarter of century (25 years) the John Paul II Foundation continues its mission without respite. These local animators are involved in technical development, health, social, agricultural and ecologic areas to ensure the local population a real improvement of their living condition and future prospects.

The originality of the Foundation expresses its will to empower and make the populations of Sahel self-sufficient, to take in consideration all the dimensions of mankind: its heart, its spirit, its body and finally, to give to everyone the means to become the architect of their destiny.

The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel is a vector of love, solidarity, justice, an instrument against ignorance, a tool of peace and hope.


3 – Organisation and operation

The operation of the John Paul II Foundation is based on the co-management and co-responsibility of the Bishops from the 9 countries of Sahel: the Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and the Chad.

It is governed by statutes approved by the Holy Father. These statutes provide a:

  • Board of Directors,
  • Project Board,
  • General Secretary.

Diocesan follow-up cells (DFC)

The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel Board of Directors acknowledges the diocesan follow-up cells as privileged partners of the John Paul II Foundation for the framing and the guidance of promoters, in close cooperation with the General Secretary.

The main tasks of these diocesan follow-up cells can be summed up as follow:

    • To inform and raise public awareness about :
      – The John Paul II Foundation’s objectives ;
      – Its means of intervention (projects submission, type of eligible projects, outlines of the elaboration of projects, documents to be provided, final date to send projects to the Secretary) ;


    • To distribute promotional documents


    • To accommodate promoters and advisors during the elaboration of their project’s documents.


    • To analyse projects (feasibility, budget, credibility of the promoter, relevance and sustainability of the project within the diocesan frame…)


  • To select projects upon an eligibility criteria basis in effect at the John Paul II Foundation, to fill in the accompanying document and to issue a technical recommendation to help the Bishop or the Local Ordinary to take a reasoned decision.

In addition to create reports by project, the diocesan follow-up cells must provide a general report of their promoters’ follow-up activities. These reports must provide clear indications about the management of projects and their effects on beneficiaries and their immediate environment, the promoters’ follow-up activity, status of refunds and the impact of projects.


4 – Cor Unum

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum occupies a place of choice in management and administration committees for the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel’s assets..

The articles 1, 4, 7, 11 and 27 of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel’s statutes establish the role and attributions of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum as follow:

  •  The Pontifical Council Cor Unum is appointed by the Holy Father to represent Him before the John Paul II Foundation and to accompany its activities ;
  • The John Paul II Foundation’s head office is towards the Pontifical Council Cor Unum whose President is the legal representative of the Foundation ;
  • The asset management of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel is entrusted to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum who, in particular, takes all the appropriate measures to fight against the usury of this asset ;
  • Each year, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum communicates to the Board of Directors during its regular session, the available amount of money ;
  • The Holy See, although it is not a member ex officio of the Board of Directors, is represented at ordinary and extraordinary meetings by a representative who acts as its observer ;
  • The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel can only be abolished by the Holy Father ;
  • When the John Paul II Foundation dies, whatever the cause, the Holy Father will state about the devolution of the assets subject to the will of donators and acquired rights.

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