of His Excellency
ARCHBISHOP PAUL JOSEF CORDES
8-9 October 2002
Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council
"Cor Unum", today ended a two day visit to the international
humanitarian institutions in Geneva.
The Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" is the office of the
Roman Curia which is charged with realizing the charitable endeavors of
the Holy Father and of bringing his assistance in areas of humanitarian
disaster. It is the
principal liaison between the Holy See and the network of Catholic
assistance and development agencies.
The visit was coordinated with the Permanent Mission of the Holy
See to the International Organizations in Geneva.
At the UNHCR, Archbishop Cordes met first with the High
Commissioner, Mr. Luud Lubbers, and his immediate collaborators.
After a short presentation of the Pontifical Council "Cor
Unum" and its activities, Mr. Lubbers went on to do the same for
the UNHCR. UNHCR focuses on refugees and related internally displaced
persons (IDPs), that is those IDPs sharing the same causes as refugees:
dictatorship, wars, etc. The
number of such persons (refugees and related IDPs) under the attention
of the UNHCR currently lies slightly below 20 million.
Its humanitarian work consists not only in the initial
care-taking of people, but also in finding lasting solutions for them,
and in empowering them to participate positively in society.
Recent studies reveal how the USA management of immigration has
helped its economic growth. It
was pointed out that while the USA managed its immigration by law,
Europe did the same by culture, a difficult process which has not been
able to grapple with the worrying and growing xenophobic tendencies.
Further conversations were held with Mr. Pierre François Pirlot,
in a discussion centered on humanitarian activities in Pakistan and
Afghanistan. In Afghanistan
the task that lies ahead is that of the reconstruction of the country.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the German Diakonisches Werk
are present in this work with a good standard of performance.
Muslim organizations are also active on the spot.
The future is however still risky.
The basic infrastructures concerning education and health are
poor. People, however,
crave for education, parents as well as children.
This is a very positive sign.
Water resources are perennially scarce in the area.
Much of the irrigation system has been destroyed in the conflict.
The central government is doing its best in a very difficult
situation and deserves a great deal of support.
Earlier in the day, a meeting took place with Mr. Christopher E.
SOREK, Head of Communication Department, International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Particular attention is paid by the Federation to good
strategy and media relations especially in order to bring back to public
awareness and to the agenda of donors disasters which tend to become
slow-moving and forgotten. Archbishop
Cordes recalled the anthropology which lies behind helping and the place
of religion in it. According
to him, religion should not be discarded as something which causes
divisions, but should be recognized not only as something positive which
can unify, but also as a most important element in the decisions of
Finally on October 8th, there was a meeting with the Director and
Staff of the International Catholic Migration Commission.
The Commission is particularly important at a moment in which the
theme of migration is moving toward the center of international
On October 9th, Archbishop Cordes visited the World Council of
Churches, where he was received, in the absence of the General Secretary,
by the Deputy General Secretary, Mr. George Lemopoulos.
Later, in a round table discussion with representatives of
different sectors of the World Council, a common concern was expressed
that often in development and assistance work religion is identified
primarily as an obstacle, rather than as something which can contribute
to building community. Representatives
of the counterpart agency of the World Council of Churches for
humanitarian assistance, Action by Churches Together, came for lunch and
an exchange of views at the Permanent Mission of the Holy See.
Before leaving Geneva, Archbishop Cordes visited the Geneva
International Catholic Centre and the Office of the United Nations for
Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA).