2011-05-22 19:34:10

The diaconia of charity: Card. Bertone opens Caritas Assembly

From May 22nd to 27th the Caritas Confederation is holding its General Assembly in Rome. Delegates from the Confederation's 160 nations will have to vote for a new board of governors and on the plan of action for the Churches global charity arm over the next four years.

On Sunday evening Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone celebrated mass opening the Assembly. Addressing the congregation he began by expressing thanks on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI for the tireless work of the Caritas confederation on behalf of the Church and humanity. He said “Particular gratitude is due for the work carried out in the aftermath of the recent natural disasters in Haiti and Japan, as well as for the ready assistance provided in emergencies resulting from conflicts like those in Côte d'Ivoire and in other situations of war, and from situations of extreme poverty. Amid all these painful realities, this worthy Church institution is called to demonstrate, practically and effectively, that the world is one family, the family of the children of God: “One human family, zero poverty”, to echo the theme of the present Assembly”.

The Cardinal then went on to reflect on the diaconia of charity:

“The Church’s charitable activity, like that of Christ, could never be limited to assisting people’s material needs, however urgent and immediate those needs might be. A humanitarian assistance which would habitually prescind from its Christian identity, adapting a “neutral” approach seeking to please everyone, would risk, even in cases where it obtained its immediate goals, failing to offer men and women a fine service consonant with their full dignity. Thus, even without wishing to do so, they would eventually foster in those whom they assist a materialistic mentality which the latter would then bring to other relationships and to their approach to social issues. In a word: the Church must not only practice charity, but practice it as Christ did.”

Reflecting on the reasons for the founding of Caritas 60 years ago Cardinal Bertone said the task of Caritas is primarily educational:

Caritas Internationalis, in its daily encounter with human needs and forms of poverty, recognizes the urgency of defending and promoting the rights of the poor, also vis-à-vis international authorities. Within the terms of the agency’s particular share in the Church’s mission and its specific mandate as a canonical public person, when carried out in communion with the Church’s rightful pastors, such advocacy enriches the Church. Nonetheless, there is another level of service which is prior to and more important than that which concerns public authorities. It involves appealing in a convincing and respectful way to the minds and hearts of believers and all persons of good will, enabling them to see the poor as their brothers and sisters. This is what the Servant of God Pope Paul VI had in mind he insisted that the task of Caritas is primarily educational. Ideologies both liberal and collectivist, while containing aspects of truth borrowed from Christianity, have led to disillusionment because they promised a paradise on earth. The fact is that paradise will never be attained in history, yet we must constantly commit ourselves responsibly to the service of our brothers and sisters. At the root of all forms of poverty are selfishness and indifference, which express themselves politically above all in corruption. Caritas Internationalis and the national and local Caritas agencies do immense good when they help persons and communities to lovingly acknowledge the presence of our brothers and sisters in need, which is the presence of Christ himself (cf. Mt 25:31-46); when they trouble consciences and help people to realize the importance of evangelical sharing, whether by personal initiatives or in cooperation with the Church’s organized charitable activity. To reveal the faces of our brothers and sisters, to help Christians and all people of goodwill to care for their needs as if they were their own, and to demand the full recognition of their dignity: this is the fundamental commitment of Caritas Internationalis, as well as the goal of that renewed relationship with the agencies of the Holy See which I trust will be the result of the present Assembly”.

Finally he outlined the aims of the assembly:

“To carry out the diaconia of charity in its fullness, to go beyond providing material assistance and defending the rights of the poor, to strive to awaken in all those whom you assist an awareness of their human dignity, and to confirm in Christians and in people of good will a practical sense of fraternity especially with regard to the poor, it is necessary to live in Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth and the life”, and to be enlivened by his Holy Spirit. This Assembly is not only an occasion for a fraternal encounter and the fulfilment of institutional duties. It is primarily an occasion for a more intense encounter with Christ and for a renewed personal commitment to serve our brothers and sisters in the spirit of Christ. We find Christ in his Word and in the Bread of Life, in personal prayer and in the sacraments; we also find him, and we share his life with others, in the activities of Caritas and the Caritas family, as a distinctive part of the Church. The sacraments, the Word and diaconia are all essential elements of the Church’s life and that of individual Christians. Thanks to these elements we will be able to take the “place” prepared for us by Christ in the Father’s house, but only if we have loved our brothers and sisters as Jesus taught us”.

All the contents on this site are copyrighted ©.