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H.Em. Cardinal Robert Sarah                      
Pontifical Council Cor Unum


The official release of the new Statutes and Internal Rules of Caritas Internationalis is a cause of special satisfaction. This solemn event marks the conclusion of a process of collaboration, dialogue and reflection between the Secretary of State, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Caritas Internationalis and other related Dicasteries and Organisms. Since its foundation, Caritas Internationalis has come a long way: in fact, we have to go back to the beginning of the XIX century to see in a nutshell how this Confederation came into being. At that time, Caritas already had begun to coordinate itself on the national and international levels. In 1950, Pope Pius XII wanted to foster the development of a new form of organism that aims at bringing together from throughout the Universal Church, the national charitable organizations that are authorized and dependent of their own bishops. The goal of this Confederation is to promote mutual knowledge, coordination and collaboration in carrying out the charitable activity and human development in different parts of the world. In 1951, the Organism held its first General Assembly, which brought together the 13 founding members. In that very same year, the Holy See approved the Statutes of the Confederation. In 1957, the Organism took the name of Caritas Internationalis, to highlight the activity that took place on the international level. On July 19, 1976, on the initiative of Pope Paul VI, it was granted the civil juridical personality of the Vatican City State. Finally, we come to September 16, 2004; when following a reflection on the identity and mission of Caritas Internationalis, the Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II bestowed upon it the public canonical juridical personality with the Chirograph During the Last Supper.

In this short historical synthesis, it is evident the role of the Apostolic See in bringing into existence the Confederation and afterwards in defining its ecclesial identity in order to support and guide the activities of Caritas Internationalis from its very origins so that it may be the expression of the Charity of the Church. From 2004, it seemed necessary to elaborate on the norms of application of the Chirograph and reformulate the Statutes and Internal Rules according to the Chirograph. In the last months, there was an opportunity to carry out a long and fruitful collaboration, especially with the Commission of the Statutes of Caritas Internationalis, who has worked on the drafts of the Statutes and Internal Rules. The Holy See has given a great deal of attention to this process because it is conscientious of the importance of Caritas Internationalis and the role that it plays both on the ecclesial and international level. In fact, there are 164 Caritas members of the Confederation, divided in 7 regions: Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, North America and Oceania.

The Holy Father has followed closely the progress of this process and his interests for Caritas Internationalis concurs with what he had affirmed at the beginning of his Pontificate in the Encyclical Deus Caritas est concerning the special importance of the charitable activity for the Church: hence, the commitment he solicited from the Secretariat of State, our Dicastery and other organisms of the Holy See who have participated in the process of revision of the Statutes and Internal Rules. Furthermore, in his address to the participants of the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis on May 27, 2011, he had pointed out some fundamental elements to keep in mind: since Caritas Internationalis is a public canonical person, the Holy See is also responsible for following its activity to ensure that both its activity and the content of its documents are completely in accord with the Apostolic See and with the Church’s Magisterium. Also, the ecclesial character of the Confederation necessarily is accomplished through a close collaboration with the Pastors of the Church who are the ultimate responsible of the testimony of charity (cfr Deus Caritas est, 32). In the end, the Holy Father reminded that Caritas Internationalis should be an advocate within the international community with “a sound anthropological vision”, rooted in the Catholic teachings and committed to defending the dignity of the human person.

The theological principles that hold up these concepts are contained in the Decree of Approval of these Statutes, which comes with the General Decree that is published today and that Caritas Internationalis will make public at a suitable time along with the Statutes. Such principles emphasize the divine origin of every work of charity in the Church; yet, the ecclesial practice of charity requires a communitarian service, directed and guided by the word and example of the Bishops (Gaudium et Spes n. 88). The supreme witness of Christ’s charity urges pastors and faithful to dedicate themselves to curb poverty; from here, the need to promote a culture of charity, first of all in the Church herself, who should be as the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches (Lc 10, 29-37), the light and credible model for all people of good will (Mt 5,16).

These theological principles, present in the above-mentioned Decree, have inspired the work of the Holy See and Caritas Internationalis in the elaboration of the new set of norms, which carries out in a more concrete way what was also expressed by the Pontifical Chirograph of 2004. This set of norms is made up of a General Decree signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State in the new Statutes and Internal Rules.

This juridical corpus does not relate directly to the National Caritas who maintain their autonomy and continue to depend on their respective Bishops. However, it could inspire the Bishops and Episcopal Conferences to eventually revise the Statutes of their Diocesan or National Caritas.

The Supreme Pontiffs have supported Caritas Internationalis and have wanted that the Organism would embody the manifestation of the Church’s Charity in the course of its history. In the same way, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI wishes that Caritas Internationalis, in virtue of its vital bond with the Church, would always carry out more effectively its own charitable activity.

Also, on this occasion, we know that the release of this new set of norms is only the necessary task to assure a juridical framework. But this structure must be filled daily by a living communion, by the activity in favor of the most lonely and abandoned and by Gospel testimony. As we know, and it is good to stress it again, that any judicial framework is not an end in itself but aims at rendering more flexible, effective and credible the work it regulates. This is what counts more than anything else. We, who are the interested parties will have to collaborate in this so that the charitable witness and evangelical mission of the Church would always be ever more a reference to the God of Charity from whom all have its origin and form and towards whom all are heading towards.

(L' OSSERVATORE ROMANO - published in Italian in the daily Edition of May 2, 2012)