of His Excellency
PAUL JOSEF CORDES
of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"
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 people.
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 reflection.
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).