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Press Release of His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah,
President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum
on the occasion of the U.N.’s International Day of Charity

September 5, 2013


The Pontifical Council Cor Unum is pleased that the UN General Assembly, in memory of the anniversary of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s death, has designated September 5th as the International Day of Charity, which will be celebrated for the first time this year. We join the countless number of people throughout the world in remembering her and giving thanks to God for the eloquent witness of love that she has given to the Church and the whole human family. The recognition of the person and work of Blessed Mother Teresa by the international community is also an invitation for us to continue to offer this witness of love to those in need.

             As we have all been witnessing, in word and deed, our Holy Father, Pope Francis has a particular love for the poor and suffering. In fact, from the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Francis has constantly encouraged us through his example and teaching to strive to be “a poor Church for the poor”. He invited the Church to go out of herself and go to the peripheries: those of the mysteries of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and of religious indifference, of thought, of all misery. By daily contact with these peripheries, the Church is called to bring healing and love through her charitable service.

On this day, we also wish to recognize the service and dedication of so many generous individuals and Catholic institutions. In particular, we are grateful to the numerous men and women of religious orders who have given their lives to the works of mercy in the poorest parts of the world. In carrying out their work of charity, they bear witness that God still loves the world and through them He communicates His love and compassion to the poor.

Obedient to Jesus’ commandment of love, the Church is called to witness to God’s love through the exercise of charity. In fact, from the very beginning, the Church’s service of charity to the poor has always been one of her essential activities, along with the administration of the sacraments and the proclamation of the word. Through this three-fold task, the Church’s mission is to give all men and women a share in the divine nature of the God who is love. The Church affirms that the raison d’etre of her mission of charity is Jesus Christ and bearing witness to His love in the service to the poor. In the same way, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta has always found her inspiration and strength in Jesus. Her life, her witness of love came from the lessons that He taught her in prayer and the contemplation of His life and teaching. In her service of charity, she did not intend to simply provide humanitarian relief or change social structures. Upon receiving the Nobel Prize, she clearly affirmed, “We are not real social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of the people, but we are really contemplatives in the heart of the world; for we are touching the Body of Christ twenty-four hours a day” (December 11, 1979). 

Every time we look at Mother’s Teresa’s image, we are reminded: “love – caritas – will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable” (DCE n.28b).  

Christian charity is always at the service of the integral good of every human being without distinction of religion or race. The exercise of Christian charity does not only rely on professional competence or be simply content with an impersonal effort. Our approach is with a “heart that sees” beyond the material needs. In the poor that we serve, we strive to see their wholeness and integrity as they stand before God.  Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is a compelling example of the fact that such sensitivity does not affect efficiency. In her service to the poorest of the poor, her faith saw beyond their material needs. She once said, “God has identified himself with the hungry, the sick, the naked, the homeless; hunger, not only for bread, but for love, for care, to be somebody to someone; nakedness, not for clothing only, but nakedness of that compassion that very few people give to the unknown, homelessness, not only just for a shelter made of stone, but that homelessness that come from having no one to call your own.” This initiative of the UN urges us to always be faithful to this spiritual heritage that Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta has left us.