Pontiff Notes How Caritas Is Distinctive

Speaks of Responsibilities That Come With Acting in the Name of the Church

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Caritas Internationalis is not like other social agencies because it shares in the mission of the Church, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience representatives of Caritas, gathered for their general assembly, which is marking the 60th anniversary of the charity organization.

Caritas is a confederation of local and national Church charity organizations. Since 2004 it is also a «public juridical entity» within the Church.

The Holy Father noted this special status in his address. 

«Being in the heart of the Church, being able in a certain way to speak and act in her name for the common good, entails particular responsibilities in terms of the Christian life, both personal and in community,» he said.

«For us Christians, God himself is the source of charity; and charity is understood not merely as generic benevolence but as self-giving, even to the sacrifice of one’s life for others in imitation of the example of Jesus Christ,» the Pontiff stated. «The Church prolongs Christ’s saving mission in time and space: she wishes to reach out to every human being, moved by a concern that every individual come to know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.»

Caritas Internationalis shares in this mission of the Church, Benedict XVI affirmed. «This is what the Popes have always wanted and this is what your General Assembly is called forcefully to re-affirm.»

He spoke of the «particular ecclesial responsibility» of Caritas organizations, «that of letting oneself be guided by the Church’s Pastors.»

«Since Caritas Internationalis has a universal profile and is canonically a public juridical person,» he said, «the Holy See is also responsible for following its activity 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, and that it is administered in a competent and transparent manner. This distinctive identity remains the strength of Caritas Internationalis, and is what makes it uniquely effective.»

Understanding people

Benedict XVI noted the contribution that Caritas makes to advocating within the international community for a «sound anthropological vision, one nourished by Catholic teaching and committed to defending the dignity of all human life.»

«Without a transcendent foundation, without a reference to God the Creator, without an appreciation of our eternal destiny, we risk falling prey to harmful ideologies,» he said. «All that you say and do, the witness of your lives and activities, remains important and contributes to the advancement of the integral good of the human person.»

The Pope also spoke of Caritas’ mission to foster communion between local Churches and the universal Church, as well as its mission to bring the Church’s message to politics and social life.

In this context, he noted how «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 ‘non-negotiable.'»

In this regard, the Pope said, Caritas is called «to work in converting people’s hearts in openness towards all our brothers and sisters, so that everyone, in full respect for his or her freedom and in the full acceptance of his or her personal responsibilities, may always and everywhere act for the common good, generously giving the best of himself or herself in the service of his or her brothers and sisters, particularly those in greatest need.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-32690?l=english

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