LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Pope Francis this week offered his support for Scottish Catholics efforts to help the people of the African nation of Rwanda this week.

The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Alistair Dutton, met with the pope on Thursday. However, before moving to Rome, Dutton served as the Chief Executive of SCIAF, the Scottish bishops’ organization for international development.

Each Lent, generous Scots give up a favorite treat such as coffee, chocolate, wine or crisps during Lent and put the money they save into a “Wee Box” sponsored by SIAF. The people then donate the “Wee Box” at Easter to provide help to vulnerable communities worldwide, struggling to survive due to hunger, poverty and the climate emergency.

This year, the appeal focuses on the people of Rwanda, 30 years after the genocide which left around one million people dead.

“Our Lent appeal this year is so important,” said Lorraine Currie, SCIAF’s current Chief Executive.

“There are so many wars and tragic things happening all over our world, which we witness every day on our television screens. But there are also ongoing struggles and injustices in countries across the world that we don’t hear much about, like in Rwanda,” she said in a message to Crux.

“SCIAF’s work across Rwanda, driven by donations from the people of Scotland, focuses on supporting women and girls who have suffered abuse and discrimination. Working through local Rwandan organizations, SCIAF is supporting projects which help women and girls rebuild their lives, change social attitudes, and build a better future for themselves and their families,” Currie said.

A SCIAF representative told Crux that as Lent is a time for reflection Christians are asked to pray, fast and give alms, “the Wee Box offers people in Scotland the chance to show their love and compassion for our sisters and brothers around the world.”

“The Wee Box has been supported for many years by incredibly generous parishes, schools and individuals across the country. The Wee Box is the focal point of SCIAF fundraising and is used by communities to support SCIAF’s projects,” the representative said.

“Through the Wee Box, we focus on a different country where we work each year and tell the stories behind our projects and those we are able to help thanks to the generosity of people in Scotland,” the SCIAF staff member said.

RELATED: Scottish Catholics use Lent to raise funds for vulnerable people in Rwanda

Dutton said on X – formally known as Twitter – that Francis was pleased to bless SCIAF’s Wee Box Lenten appeal and hear about their work in Rwanda.

“‘Adelente’ he encouraged!” Dutton wrote.

The SCIAF staff in Scotland were happy to see the picture of the pope holding the Wee Box.

Jennifer Adams has worked for SCIAF for the last 35 years.

“The staff were all delighted to hear that the Holy Father had given our Wee Box his blessing. We may be a small charity, but we have a huge reach and this endorsement from Pope Francis has given us a real boost,” she told Crux.

Currie hopes the pope’s support will help convince the Scottish people to donate to the Rwanda cause.

“Please give what you can to the SCIAF appeal this year. Even a small donation makes a huge difference,” Currie said.

Follow Charles Collins on X: @CharlesinRome