Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Christ’s witnesses, not aid workers

“WHOEVER lives the mission of Caritas is not simply a charity worker, but is a true witness of Christ, one who seeks Christ and allows Christ to seek him, one who loves with the spirit of Christ, a spirit of gratuitousness and gift.  All our strategies and plans remain empty unless we carry this love in us.”  This was what Pope Francis told the over 300 Caritas delegates from across the world at the opening mass of the 20th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis held at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on May 12.   Caritas Internationalis which is the main charity arm of the Catholic Church is slated from May 12-17 on the theme “One Human Family, Caring for Creation.”
This certainly differentiates substantially the charity work of the Catholic Church from the humanitarian work of well-funded philanthropists.   In Ecclesia in Europa, Saint Pope John Paul II already pointed out that serving the mission of the Church “by means of a charity that evangelizes is the commitment and the responsibility of everyone.” (No. 33).   With the values of the Gospel in tow, it is “caritas” that, more than anything else, evangelizes especially by witnessing to the “joy of the Gospel” even in the midst of poverty, injustice and suffering.
Pope Francis told the delegates that the source of the organizations’ global work “lies in the simple and docile welcome of God and neighbor…This is the root.  If you cut this root, Caritas dies.”  It is in this spirit that even the social and organizational structure of these charitable institutions should manifest.   “Let us ask the Lord for the grace to understand the true dimension of Caritas, for the grace not to fall into the deception of believing that well-organized centralization is the way, for the grace to understand that Caritas is always on the periphery, in every particular Church…The Caritas of each particular church, even the smallest, is the same. There is no big Caritas or small Caritas, all are the same.” 
For Pope Francis, belief in God and assisting others go hand in hand.  Faith according to him is “to welcome God and express this in service to our brothers and sisters.  Word, sacraments and service lead to and nourish each other… to wash the feet and bathe the wounds of the suffering and to prepare a table for them…  All our strategies and plans remain empty unless we carry this love in us.  Not our love but his.  Or better yet, our love purified and strengthened by his love.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about faith, love and the spirituality of charity workers—and not simply about mobilizations and strategic social action work that even makes use of high-level corporate systems.   And here comes the rub.  If only to deliver and manage a most systematic charity work, some catholic charitable institutions hire top-level workers sans the Catholic values cited by Pope Francis.  Of late, for instance, an international Catholic charitable institution was accused of hiring workers that oppose fundamental Catholic moral teachings.  Hereabouts, many are just too secular and too mainstream. 

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