BY ED WEST
CHURCH development agencies must be more closely guided by Catholic teaching, Pope Benedict XVI has told Caritas Internationalis’s leaders, as the Vatican strengthened its oversight of the group’s operations.
Speaking at the 60th anniversary assembly of Caritas Internationalis in Rome, the Pope said the Vatican was responsible for the charity’s activities 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 Pope was speaking last Friday after a six-day meeting of delegates to the Caritas general assembly, which includes representatives of the 165 national Catholic charities that make up the Caritas Internationalis confederation, among them Cafod in England and Wales, Sciaf in Scotland and Trócaire in Ireland.
The meeting came after the Holy See had prevented the organisation’s British-born secretarygeneral, Lesley-Anne Knight, from standing for re-election.
Earlier in the week Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis that the Church’s consortium of relief and development agencies must have a vibrant Christian identity.
The general assembly’s agenda included new statutes that strengthen Vatican control of the organisation’s operations, reflecting Pope Benedict’s teaching on Christian charity.
The Pope said that with its special juridical status, established in 2004 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, he said, is called to bring the Church’s message to international political and social discussions. But, he said, “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”.
The Pope added: “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. 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 ‘nonnegotiable’,” he said, in reference to the obligation to protect human life and to support the traditional family.
Pope Benedict told members that because their confederation was able “in a certain way to speak and act” in the Church’s name, Caritas had “particular responsibilities in terms of the Christian life, both personal and in commu nity. Only on the basis of a daily commitment to accept and to live fully the love of God can one promote the dignity of each and every human being.” For Catholics, “charity is understood not merely as generic benevolence, but as self-giving” designed to help each and every person come to know the love of Christ, he said.
As a global confederation helping millions of people in dozens of countries each year, Caritas is increasingly influential, the Pope said, and he thanked the global body for being an advocate of “a sound anthropological vision, one nourished by Catholic teaching and committed to defending the dignity of all human life”.
Pope Benedict said that without recognising that human beings were created by God and are called to eternal life, “we risk falling prey to harmful ideologies” that do not advance the good of the whole human person because integral development includes the person’s spirituality and eventual salvation.
At the meeting regional representatives of the Caritas executive committee confirmed the election of Michel Roy, director of international advocacy for the French Catholic charity Secours Catholique, as secretary-general.
A 56-year-old father of two, Mr Roy studied economics and Oriental languages at Sorbonne University. He began volunteer work with Southeast Asian refugees for Secours Catholique in 1976.
Addressing the assembly after the vote, Mr Roy said: “I’m very moved by this. I’d like to thank Lesley-Anne for the work she’s done so far and also all of you for the work that you do for this network which reflects the hopes of the poor to build a better world.” Chris Bain, Cafod director, who was at the assembly, said the meeting was “an opportunity to discuss and put into action better ways we as Cafod can work together to serve the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable”.
Editorial comment: Page 13