Pope: Charity Is More Than Philanthropy

Invites Contemplation of Cross as Source of Hope

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is affirming that Christian charitable action, more than mere philanthropy, is a form of evangelization, based on Gospel values and the desire to share them with others.

The Pope said this today in an address to members of the Circle of St. Peter, a Roman charitable organization, in an audience in the Hall of Popes of the Apostolic Palace.
 
The charity’s president, Duke Leopold Torlonia, gave the Pontiff the Peter’s Pence donation collected this year in the parishes of Rome.
 
The Holy Father expressed gratitude for this gesture, which implied «a concrete participation in the economic effort that the Apostolic See makes to meet the growing urgent needs of the Church, especially in the poorest countries of the earth.»

Christian charitable action, he said «is not just philanthropic action, though useful and meritorious,» but a «privileged form of evangelization, in the light of the teaching of Jesus, who will consider whatever we do for our brothers as done to himself.»
 
Christian charity goes beyond material aid, he added, «as it makes visible, and I would say almost tangible, on one hand, the infinite mercy of God toward every human being and, on the other, our faith in Him.»
 
Benedict XVI explained that this charity consists in «harmonizing our gaze with Christ’s gaze, our heart with his heart.» He added, «In this way, loving support offered to others is translated into participation and sharing with the weakest and the marginalized.»
 
Given the proximity of Holy Week, the Pope invited his audience to «relive intensely» these mysteries as a «propitious occasion to reaffirm and purify your faith, to open yourselves to the contemplation of the Cross which is a mystery of infinite love from which to draw strength to make your life a gift to brothers.»
 
He continued, «From the Cross springs joy and peace of heart, which make us witnesses of that hope of which we see there is great need in these times of widespread and generalized economic crisis.»

Commissioned
 
The Circle of St. Peter is a charitable institution founded in Rome in 1869 by the initiative of a group of young people of the city’s nobility and high bourgeoisie, who wished to make a gesture of fidelity to the Pope — in response to the anti-clerical attacks of the time — through the press and public gestures.
 
However, on receiving them for the first time in audience, Pope Pius IX entrusted to them, as their first mission, charity toward the poorest of Rome.
 
This was fulfilled, especially during the difficult moments of World War II, to the point that for more than 100 years, this charitable work is known among Romans as «the Pope’s soup.»
 
At present, the circle distributes some 50,000 daily rations of food to the poor as well as giving hospitality to the homeless.

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