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Cardinal Sarah calls upon Catholic Charities to foster Catholic identity

Catholic World News - October 02, 2012

Speaking at Catholic Charities USA’s annual gathering, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum urged the agency to draw strength from its Catholic identity and take part in the new evangelization.

“Today, the Church in America, including Catholic Charities, face[s] challenges that threaten this heritage that has been passed on to us by previous generations,” said Guinea-born Cardinal Robert Sarah in his October 1 address. “The times in which we live in are characterized by an aggressive secularism that seeks to exclude the role of religion in public life and as a consequence, set up a culture without God, wherein everyone can live without the law of truth and love engraved in the heart of every human being by the Creator. Secularism seeks to substitute God and His divine law with personal opinions, ideologies, pleasures and needs. If God is taken out, only degradation and sufferings will follow.”

“Catholic Charities are not exempt from being affected by this secularized mentality,” he continued. “In the past, some Catholic Charities have contracted with civil authority to provide foster care and adoption services. But recently, civil authority through its own legislation has tried to pressure Catholic adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples, a clear violation of Catholic teachings. Catholic charitable agencies are given the choice to comply or withdraw from the adoption/care business.”

Cardinal Sarah added:

In these new situations of difficulty, we need to recognize the significant questions on the meaning of suffering and life. This is why we need to be able to give a comprehensive answer. In particular, we feel guided by a principle of faith, which is valid not only for our work “ad extra”, but also within (“ad intra”) our organizations: the defense of life from its beginning to its natural end …

In a merely human point of view, we may think that such difficult circumstances can be an obstacle to freely realize the Church’s mission of charity. On the contrary, I believe that such time and peculiar circumstances present us with an exceptional occasion to go back to the roots of our Catholic identity … Tapping into our Catholic roots will be a source of renewal for you and will help you to rediscover and appreciate this great treasure, which is our Catholic faith and tradition.

Cardinal Sarah, who played an influential role in deepening the Catholic identity of Caritas Internationalis, also addressed the relation between charity and evangelization in his discussion of “essential characteristics of Christian charity”:

We can start with a simple question: What is the connection between our charitable action and evangelization? If our charitable action is an ecclesial action, then of course it is permeated by the Gospel.

How can we evangelize ourselves within our organizations, allowing the Gospel to penetrate our sentiments and our thoughts so that our work reveals God who has called us? What can we do in our organizations to link together charity and evangelization in the life of those who work with us? The pastoral priorities of the New Evangelization should also be taken up by our organizations, since they are organizations of the Church.

Another aspect of this ecclesial nature is the link with the pastors of the Church. Every Catholic charitable work should function faithfully within the mission and structure of the local diocese, with special respect for the role of the bishop. This ecclesial communion is essential to our mission. The link with the Church and her global mission should not be perceived as an obstacle or a limitation in regards to the problems we face, but instead must be understood as a condition of possibility so that our action may be implemented and fully understood.

“In such a difficult time, living faithfully our Christian heritage is itself a challenge,” he concluded. “But our Catholic identity can also be truly a ‘gateway’ of renewal and a sure path to bearing lasting fruit in our charitable work.”

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