BY SCO Admin | June 3 2011 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


All aboard for charity

Pope Benedict XVI reinforces Catholic identity of agencies such as SCIAF at Rome assembly

Pope Benedict XVI has highlighted the importance of Catholic charities worldwide, emphasising that they must be guided in their work by bishops and the official teaching of the Church.

Speaking at the 19th general assembly of Caritas Internationalis, Pope Benedict said that the Vatican is responsible for following the activities of Caritas and ‘exercising oversight to ensure that its humanitarian and charitable activity and the content of its documents, are completely in accord with the Apostolic See and the Church’s magisterium.’

The Holy Father attended the final day of the general assembly for the international confederation of 165 national Catholic charities across the world, including the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), last Friday.

“Being in the heart of the Church, being able in a certain way to speak and act in Her name for the common good, entails particular responsibilities in terms of Christian life, both personal and in the community,” he told Caritas delegates.


More than 300 representatives of the national charities that make up Caritas, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, were present for the general assembly in Rome from May 22-27.

Among the delegates was Paul Chitnis, chief executive of SCIAF—part of the Caritas confederation—who welcomed the Holy Father’s comments.

“As agencies of the Catholic Church, it is vital that our life-saving work continues to be guided by the Church’s teachings, the bishops, the experienced professionals working in the field and, of course, those people living in poverty whom we serve,” Mr Chitnis said.

He added that the general assembly was a ‘constructive and informative gathering where members from across the world met to discuss a range of vital issues.’

Mr Chitnis also extended his congratulations to Michel Roy, the 56-year-old Frenchman, who was elected as the new general secretary of Caritas during the general assembly. Mr Roy will now serve alongside Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras, who was re-elected for a second term as Caritas Internationalis president.

Catholic identity

Caritas Internationalis heard calls from several high-ranked cardinals last week urging it to maintain and improve its Catholic identity.

Among those who made the appeal was Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican body responsible for Caritas.

“A Caritas that wasn’t an ecclesial expression would have no meaning or existence,” Cardinal Sarah said. “The Church cannot be considered as a partner of Catholic organisations. They are the organisations that take part in Her mission.”

The cardinal was unsure of the Caritas International’s new theme: One Human Family—Zero Poverty.

“I’m very hesitant to understand what zero poverty means, because Christ said we will always have the poor,” Cardinal Sarah said. “So, what is a realistic way we can fight the poverty? But, it’s difficult to absolutely cancel out poverty.”

The cardinal added, however, that ‘the future will be very brilliant’ for Caritas if it follows the indication given by Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est, the first Encyclical letter given by the Pope.


The General Assembly’s agenda included work on new statutes that would strengthen Vatican oversight of the Caritas operations and reflection on the Holy Father’s teaching on Christian charity and Caritas Internationalis’ special juridical status granted by the Vatican in 2004.

Pope Benedict said that with the new juridical status, Caritas ‘took on a particular role in the heart of the ecclesial community and was called to share, in collaboration with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, in the Church’s mission of making manifest, through practical charity, that love which is God Himself.’

Caritas, the Holy Father said, is called to bring the Church’s message to international political and social discussions. He said, however, that ‘in the political sphere—and in all those areas directly affecting the lives of the poor—the Faithful, especially the laity, enjoy broad freedom of activity.’

“No one can claim to speak ‘officially’ in the name of the entire lay Faithful, or of all Catholics, in matters freely open to discussion,” the Pope said. “On the other hand, all Catholics, and indeed all men and women, are called to act with purified consciences and generous hearts in resolutely promoting those values which I have often referred to as ‘non-negotiable.’”

Other speakers at the general assembly were Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Pontifical household.


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