By Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- At this time of economic crisis, Benedict XVI’s visit to Angola and Cameroon will foster closeness and solidarity with Africa, explained Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes.
The president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which is responsible for guidance and coordination between charitable organizations and activities promoted by the Catholic Church, said this last week to a small group of journalists. He spoke about the Papal visit to Africa, scheduled for March 17-23.
The cardinal affirmed that at a time of financial and economic crisis, there is a risk of neglecting solidarity with Africa, an element that the Pope will stress by his very presence.
He explained: “The fact that he is traveling there already attracts attention. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.”
The prelate continued, “If the Pope goes to Africa, communicators and news agents — all — will contribute to focus attention on that continent.” He noted that Benedict XVI not only takes “the Bible’s message of charity,” but also brings important results on a human level.
Cardinal Cordes, who has known Joseph Ratzinger for many years, said that the Pope actually “does not like to travel.”
“John Paul II liked it, but for Benedict XVI it is a sacrifice. Knowing him to a degree, I am certain that he is doing it because he sees it as useful, as necessary,” the cardinal said.
Not only is material aid important, he affirmed, but at times human and spiritual closeness is even more important.
The cardinal explained: “I have been in Sudan, and I have seen how money is not everything. People want to see faces, compassion.
“It is important to go to see them; to be with them. We, Europeans, think too much about the sort of aid, but it is important to think about the sort of participation.
“In the context of so many aid initiatives, what the Church does must be underlined; in some Catholic agencies, there is a tendency to have a merely philanthropic, humanitarian point of view.”
He noted that Catholics “cannot make philanthropy a profession.” He explained: “By doing so, we lose the Gospel, the roots. To be like everyone else serves no purpose.”
For this reason, he said, Benedict XVI highlighted the profound dimension of the Church’s charitable work in the second part of his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est.”
The cardinal also mentioned that the Catholic Church’s charitable work in Africa ensures the health and educational systems of some countries, which otherwise would collapse. In Uganda, for example, it has carried out a decisive fight against AIDS, he explained.
If the international community has embraced the concept of aid to development abroad, “this is a victory of the Church,” as before this concept did not exist in any country, he concluded.