Catholic World News

Charity can never be separated from faith, Pope writes in Lenten Message

February 01, 2013

Christian faith and an impulse to charity are “intimately linked” and can never be in conflict, Pope Benedict XVI writes in his Lenten Message for 2013.

In his message-entitled "Believing in Charity Calls Forth Charity”—the Pope reminds readers that during the Year of Faith he has called upon Catholics to reflect on the fundamental doctrines of faith. Faith, he writes, is a “personal adherence…to the revelation of God’s gratuitous and ‘passionate’ love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ.”

The Christian response to God’s love, the Pope says, “is always open-ended; love is never ‘finished’ or ‘complete.’” Rather, Christians find that their encounter with a loving God “awakens their love” and stimulates their love for other people. The love of neighbor, the Pope says, is no longer “a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith.”

“When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity,” the Pope explains. Thus faith arouses the impulse toward charity.

But in charitable activity, the Pope cautioned, Christians should guard against a loss of that fundamental connection with faith. He writes:

Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term “charity” to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization.

Preaching the Gospel, the Pope reminds readers, is actually the greatest act of charity, since it involves “the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person.” He writes that the connection between faith and charitable work could be considered analogous to the relationship between the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist: both are essential.

At a February 1 press conference in Rome, presenting the papal message to the media, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, underscored the Pope’s insistence that Christian faith cannot be seen as separate from, or in conflict with, charitable work. The cardinal said that the mistaken tendency to see a separation between these two virtues can take several forms.

“It is a misunderstanding,” Cardinal Sarah said, “to emphasize the faith, and the liturgy as its privileged channel, so strongly as to forget that they are intended for actual persons who have their own needs.” However, he continued, it is also wrong to think “that the Church is some kind of great act of philanthropy or solidarity that is purely human.” Finally, he said:

"A further misconception is to divide the Church into a 'good Church'--the one of charitable action?and a 'bad Church'--the one that insists on the truth, that defends and protects human live and the universal moral values."

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