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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
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Cardinal Bertone emphasizes: Caritas must have a strong Christian identity

May 23, 2011

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, told the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis that the Church’s consortium of relief and development agencies must have a vibrant Christian identity.

“The Church’s charitable activity, like that of Christ, could never be limited to assisting people’s material needs, however urgent and immediate those needs might be,” Cardinal Bertone preached at the homily opening the assembly. “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.”

“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,” he added. “In a word: the Church must not only practice charity, but practice it as Christ did.”

In his opening address, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas, praised the work of the organization’s secretary-general, Lesley-Anne Knight, whom the Holy See has not permitted to stand for reelection:

We all would have loved to continue our journey with the current Secretary General, Mrs. Lesley-Anne Knight whose professionalism, deep faith and commitment to Caritas is known and appreciated within the Church and outside in the humanitarian and development community. In only four years she has put in place and led an international team of highly skilled and committed people who serve our confederation in the fields of humanitarian aid and advocacy. Lesley-Anne has invested her vision, personal energy and faith into our work.

Lesley-Anne will not be with us for the next mandate. The way she was not allowed to stand as a candidate to be appraised by the incoming Executive Committee has caused grievance in our confederation, above all within the many women working for Caritas across the world. They have seen much hope in her election and achievements. We will not lose Lesley-Anne as a vibrant Christian and a strong believer. We will lose her as our next General Secretary. But what she achieved must go on. We need more than ever before a strong Secretariat and a strong leader. The dialogue with the Holy See about our common future and way of being Church must also continue.


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  • Posted by: - May. 23, 2011 2:35 PM ET USA

    Some of the Cardinal's praise for Knight seems to be the usual boilerplate reserved for these sorts of occasions, but he also doesn't seem to get it. His words show no sense of the need for a change of direction or modus operandi for this organization. This bodes ill.