The 20th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis was presented on Tuesday in the Holy See Press Office, attended by its President, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is concluding his eight-year mandate. Also present was the Secretary General, Michel Roy; the entity’s agriculture expert in India, agronomist Haridas Varikottil, and the theologian Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, who will be a speaker at the meeting. The Assembly, which will elect the new directors, begins this afternoon with the Holy Mass presided over by Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
“Caritas Internationalis’ Assembly meets every four years, to make plans for the future and strengthen relations in this federation of 162 national Caritas. Especially now we feel Pope Francis’ invitation of a poor Church for the poor,” noted the Honduran Cardinal.
He also said that 2015 is an important year because “we await the Holy Father’s encyclical on ecology,” and, in addition, the meeting that will be held in Paris on climate change at which proposals will be made for “the future goals of the millennium’s development.” As Caritas, we will try to support these events, added the Cardinal.
Cardinal Maradiaga specified that at this meeting, entitled “One Human Family, Caring for Creation,” not only will there be the concern about global warming but also about justice to creation and among peoples.
For his part, Father Gustavo Gutierrez spoke about poverty in the Christian message and the mission of the Church. He said that the Caritas institution expresses this and is the voice of the Church for persons in difficult situations. Moreover, he added that in today’s world people like to say that we are living a post-Socialist, capitalist and industrial moment, but not “post poverty.” Therefore, the Church must give witness of the Gospel, but history changes much and the poverty of one hundred years ago is not the same as that of today, he explained.
Answering the questions of several journalists, Michel Roy pointed out that the issue of numbers, to know the extent of Caritas’ work, is very difficult. “It is impossible to have clear numbers about what Caritas does in the field,” he asserted. Several attempts have been made in this connection: “We know the national numbers, but the diocesan ones are more difficult to control.” What he did state is that there are more than 2 million operators that work for Caritas, especially volunteers. And the number of people that receive support from this institution is tens of millions.
The Cardinal also answered the question about how he feels at the end of his mandate as President. He said that in these years he has felt greatly enriched on learning the good that is done in the Church. “She has taken seriously not to make much noise, but to do good works,” he noted. The main thing is to know how to educate Christians for the Christian communion of goods, he pointed out. “The goods of this earth are not to be accumulated but to be put at the disposition of one’s neighbor,” he reminded.
Finally, referring to the forthcoming encyclical of the Holy Father, Cardinal Madariaga said that the focus of the papal document will be ethical and not scientific. Moreover, he added that in the United States he already heard criticisms against this document, which is yet to be published. Because ideology in reference to the environment, to creation, is strongly linked to the vision of capitalism that does not want to give up harming the environment so as not to give up earnings, he observed. How can I criticize something I don’t know? asked the Cardinal, who believes that this will not be one more document, but that it is very important that everyone takes it seriously.