Volunteer Work Is Antidote to Individualism, Pope Says

Presents It as Stimulus for Nonbelievers

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Volunteer work is a phenomenon that goes «against the current» of individualism and the primacy of dominant «economic interests,» John Paul II says.

He made his comments today when he received in audience the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum.»

The Holy Father said the Christian act of dedication to others can «become an authentic stimulus for nonbelievers to experience the depth of the evangelical message.»

When meeting with members of the pontifical council that encourages and coordinates the Church´s charitable work, the Pope began by saying that volunteer work «is a notable phenomenon that today awakens much energy in the Church and the world.»

From Tuesday through Friday, «Cor Unum» is reflecting in particular on volunteer work. The United Nations dedicated the year 2001 to this topic.

The Pope clarified that volunteer work, «fruit of conscious decisions, at times difficult … offers society, in addition to concrete service, the testimony of the value of unpaid dedication.»

«This value goes against the current as regards individualism, unfortunately widespread in our societies, especially the opulent,» the Holy Father said. «In the face of economic interests that often seem to be the dominant category in social relations, the action of volunteers manifests the centrality of man.»

«The person as such deserves to be served and loved always, especially when touched by evil or suffering, or when marginalized or offended,» he added.

In this connection, volunteer work is a «significant factor of humanization and civilization,» and offers «the possibility to live the call to love present in the heart of every human being,» the Pope stressed.

John Paul II, who on Dec. 5 wrote a letter to volunteers worldwide, then gave an evangelical view of this phenomenon. «For Christians, the root of this commitment is found in Christ,» he said. «Jesus gave his life for his brothers out of love, and he did so freely.»

«Believers follow his example. Working in multiple fields of humanitarian action, they can become an authentic stimulus for nonbelievers to experience the depth of the evangelical message,» John Paul II emphasized.

«They show in a concrete way that man´s Redeemer is present in the poor and the suffering, and that he wishes to be recognized and loved in every human creature,» the Pope stressed.

Christians who work as volunteers should contemplate the model of saints of charity, «who with their life have left a trail of luminous evangelical heroism in the Church,» the Holy Father said.

From Feb. 22-24, «Cor Unum,» together with the Catholic University of Murcia, will hold a world congress in the latter on «Charity and Volunteer Work in the Third Millennium.»

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