BY JOHN THAVIS IN ROME
THE GENERAL assembly of Caritas Internationalis in late May is likely to be a defining moment for the confederation of 165 national Catholic charities at a time when the Vatican is insisting on greater control over Caritas operations.
The agenda of the May 2227 meeting reflects the Vatican’s moves toward closer collaboration and supervision. On the assembly’s first full working day four Vatican officials will speak on the crucial topics of Catholic identity and the juridical status of Caritas Internationalis in the universal Church.
Then new statutes for the organisation, prepared by a working team of the Holy See and Caritas Internationalis, will be reviewed. According to Caritas officials, the statutes would require them to consult the Holy See before making certain decisions and would acknowledge the Holy See’s authority over Caritas’s financial and personnel issues.
The changes have not come without tension, but Vatican sources said that in recent talks with top officials of Caritas Internationalis the atmosphere has vastly improved, and that there’s been “a great level of cooperation”. They emphasised that the Vatican remains very supportive of Caritas and appreciates the key role it plays in promoting the Church’s social teaching and helping those in need. The Vatican’s move toward participation in the governance structures of Caritas Internationalis, the Church’s worldwide aid and development organisation, is motivated in part by the organisation’s high public profile.
One Vatican official said: “Caritas Internationalis, as a public entity of the Church, is authorised to speak and act for the Church in the international forum. Because of that right and duty, it needs to speak the Church’s language and make sure that its activities and its agreements with non-Catholic agencies reflect what the church teaches.” The Vatican, recognising that Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of local independent charities that depend on local bishops, also wants the bishops more directly involved in oversight and collaboration.
Independent of its ongoing dialogue with Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican is giving closer attention to the Church's charitable activities in general.
The Catholic News Service has learned that the Vatican is currently studying a draft document on the role and responsibility of bishops regarding the Church’s charitable organisations.
The draft document has been prepared by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and is being reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and other Vatican agencies.