ROME, MAY 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The fundamental commitment of Caritas is to promote solidarity with the poor and to convince Christians and all people of goodwill to care for the needs of others as if they were their own, says Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Benedict XVI’s secretary of state said this Sunday at the opening Mass of the 19th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis, which is under way in Rome. Some 300 delegates have gathered in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the confederation, which joins some 165 Catholic charity organizations.
Cardinal Bertone defined the goals of the assembly thus: “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.”
The secretary of state reminded the assembly of the words of Servant of God Paul VI, who insisted that the the primary task of Caritas is educational, that of “reaching, in a convincing and respectful way, the mind and heart of believers and of all persons of good will so that they will recognize in the poor their brothers.”
Caritas, Cardinal Bertone added, “offers the faithful a privileged opportunity to share in the mission of the Church and to be close to Jesus Christ. […] Caritas Internationalis and the national and local Caritas do an immense good when they help persons and communities to recognize with love the presence of other brothers in need, which is the presence of Christ himself; when they succeed in shaking their consciences so that, whether in free initiatives or in collaboration with the charity organized by the Church, they will always feel the urgent need of evangelical sharing.”
He then explained how this educational task should be carried out, saying that “to be able to reinforce in Christians and in men of good will an operative awareness of fraternity, especially toward the poorest, one must live in Jesus Christ, who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life,’ and be animated by his Holy Spirit.”
Christ, the cardinal stressed, is found “in the Word and in the Bread of life, in personal prayer and in the Sacraments, but we will also find Him and transmit his life to others in the action of Caritas.”
A Human Family
For Cardinal Bertone, the assembly that opened on Sunday in Rome “is not only the occasion for a fraternal meeting and to fulfill institutional obligations,” but above all “the occasion to rediscover Christ more intensely.”
The anniversary is also an opportunity to “render thanks to the Lord for the organized charity of the Church.”
On behalf of the Pope, he thanked all the representatives of Caritas “for the promotion and performance of Christian charity,” and especially for the activity carried out after the recent natural calamities in Haiti and Japan, as well as for the efforts made in the emergencies due to conflicts, as in the Ivory Coast and in other situations of war or extreme poverty.
“In all these painful realities, this worthy ecclesial institution is called to show, in a practical and effective way, that the world is just one family, the family of the children of God,” the cardinal said, referring to the theme of the Assembly, “One Human Family, Zero Poverty.”
Manifestation of the Church
Addressing the delegates of the different national Caritas, Cardinal Bertone then affirmed that their activity is “a public manifestation of the Church as Body of Christ and as People of God.”
“Even if the love of neighbor rooted in the love of God is first of all a task for every single faithful, it is also a task for the whole ecclesial community,” he indicated, adding that Caritas “should be understood as an instrument of the Bishop for pastoral charity.”
He also recalled that, in 2004, Caritas Internationalis obtained public canonical juridical personality “which established the agency in qualified communion with the Church’s hierarchy and gave it a particular share in her mission, a share that Caritas Internationalis is constantly called to reflect deeply upon, to appropriate and to express in practice.”
“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,” Cardinal Bertone warned. “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.
“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.”