European bishops have underlined the importance of the close link between the pastoral work of charity and faith at a meeting just concluded in Trieste, Italy.
Participants at the Nov. 4-6 meeting, attended by bishops and delegates with responsibility for works of charity on behalf of the Bishops’ conferences in Europe, discussed the relationship between faith, charity and evangelisation and the role of the bishop and the faithful.
The participants concluded that it is “impossible to think of charity without faith,” according to a Nov. 7 statement from the Council of European Bishops‘ Conferences. “To do so would be to reduce the Church institution to a mere NGO. Nor is it possible to think of faith without charity: that would be to reduce faith to a disembodied perspective. Instead, faith needs works.”
The statement added: “In addition, there emerged more and more the idea that it is the Christian community as a whole which is called to be the real protagonist in the Church’s charitable interventions.”
The delegates stressed that as “charity is a constitutive part and a response of faith of every Christian, it needs the community so as not to lose its ecclesial character.”
“Nor is it possible to think of charity as an activity of the Church entrusted to a specific structure. The local parishes, in fact, testify to a great diversity and models which respond to the needs of the reality in which they find themselves. At the same time, the bishop is always more conscious of his role in guiding, governing and controlling his charitable bodies.”
The conference made special mention of Benedict XVI’s 2012 Motu proprio Intimae Eccleasiae Natura [The Church’s deepest nature]. The decree aimed to provide an organic legislative framework for the better overall ordering of the various organized ecclesial forms of the service of charity.
The bishops reiterated its importance, clarifying some legal and organisational elements of the numerous “charitable” structures which have emerged in recent years.
The Motu proprio “is becoming more and more a guiding document for charitable bodies showing in particular how the pastoral work of charity can become an important tool of evangelisation,” the CCEE statement said.
It added that in particular, the document underlines the fact that “being a charitable community means above all a welcoming community, that is, not just a response to an immediate need, but the offering of a reality which allows the development of the person as a whole.”
“In fact, what the community brings is not just a response to a material need,” the statement said. “It is above all a closeness which distances isolation and solitude, but is also and especially precisely that “something more” from the community of believers, its faith in God.”
Participants at the conference included Cardinal Robert Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’, and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and CCEE Vice-President.