Showing Christ's love to the suffering
The Holy Father's charitable acts in 2001 through the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"
The 30th anniversary
On 15 July, the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", established by Pope Paul VI in 1971 with the Apostolic Letter Amoris officio (impelled by the duty of love), celebrated its 30th anniversary. To commemorate the event, the Council prepared a book entitled Ars Caritatis, which contains:
- The Letter establishing the Council;
- Pope Paul VI's addresses to the members attending the Council's Plenary Assemblies;
- Pope John Paul II's addresses to the Plenary Assemblies of "Cor Unum";
- Pope John Paul II's homily at the Eucharistic celebration of the World Day of Charity (16 May 1999);
- The Holy Father's Message to the Witnesses of Charity, gathered in St Peter's Square on the Day of Charity (16 May 1999);
- The Holy Father's address to the members of the Board of Directors of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel and the Populorum Progressio Foundation;
- The Pope's Message to volunteers at the end of the International Year of Volunteers (5 December 2001);
- An article on the evolution of the Council in its 30 years of activity;
- An article on the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel;
- An article on the Populorum Progressio Foundation;
- A glossary of the terms most widely used in the context of social and charitable assistance.
The book, published in Italian, Spanish, English and French, can be ordered directly from:
Pontificio Consiglio "Cor Unum"
V-00120 Vatican City
Fax: +39 06 69887301
In both the Letter formally establishing the Council and the Addresses at the special Audiences to the members of "Cor Unum" gathered in Plenary Assembly, the Servant of God Paul VI and His Holiness John Paul II outlined the guiding principles of "Cor Unum".
In establishing the new Pontifical Council, Pope Paul VI wrote to Cardinal Jean Villot, his Secretary of State: "We therefore think it opportune to set up a special Council which would, so to speak, offer to all the People of God the possibility of coming together to deal with the above-mentioned questions concerning the promotion of human solidarity and development in accordance with the unchangeable principles of the Gospel" (15 July 1971). On 13 January 1972 at the first audience Paul VI held for the members of "Cor Unum", he repeated the concept in a programmatic address: "The creation [of this Council] shows our anxiety to keep alive and active among the People of God the law of charity which summarizes the message of the Lord". Paul VI called attention to the invitation given to the faithful in the Letter of St James (Jas 1,19f.), to put into practice and transform into works the law of charity; also, "an appeal that exhorts the Church, gathered as the People of God, to be witnesses of this charity that, flowing from the heart of Christ upon seeing the hungry crowds, spurred his disciples immediately to go to their aid" (cf. Amoris officio, 15 July 1971).
In the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of 28 June 1988 on the reform of the Roman Curia, Pope John Paul II outlined the tasks entrusted to the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", that: "the Council show the attention the Catholic Church has for the needy, to advance human brotherhood and make Christ's charity visible" (cf. Pastor Bonus, art. 145).
Along these lines, the activity of "Cor Unum" has continued to grow in the past 30 years. In the last 15 years, particular attention has been paid to offering the necessary services to the Catholic Organizations, which are engaged in the field of social and charitable work, to avoid the secularization that lessens the identity of Catholic charitable organizations, grounded in faith and in their own members and workers' example. Engaged in this work are: the Lenten Campaign of Europe (1997), the World Congress of Charity (1999), promotion of the yearly Lenten Message of the Holy Father, the participation in congresses that are promoted by the various university faculties of theology on the themes of charity and development and meetings with Bishops from all over the world on the occasion of their ad limina visit to Rome. Also included is the collaboration with the Caritas of Poland throughout 2001, in preparing an international congress of the directors of Caritas from the nations of the world on the theme "The Identity of the Caritas", held in Czestochowa during the first days of April 2001.
The Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus sums up the responsibilities entrusted to the Council: "to stimulate the faithful to give witness to evangelical charity, since they participate in the same mission of the Church, and to support them in their service"; "to favour and coordinate the initiatives of Catholic institutions that are available to help the poverty-stricken, especially those institutions that come to their aid in emergencies and disasters ..."; "to follow carefully and coordinate the programmes and works of fraternal assistance that aim to contribute to human advancement". These are the moments when a well-rooted faith "explodes" (permit me to use this word) into love for neighbour. In the Audience of 8 April 1994 to the members of "Cor Unum", the Holy Father recommended: "Modern technical requirements and the best and most efficient organization should not allow people to forget that structures have no other purpose than to be channels for the charity of the People of God. Just as the ordinary faithful should not lose interest in the activities they entrust to specialized agencies, those in charge of these groups cannot claim to be independent masters of their projects nor autonomous owners of their means. Moved by a generosity which I acknowledge, they themselves are the servants of a charity that is called to reflect the fraternal unity of the members of the People of God". The practical testimony to the love of Christ, who who "went about doing good and healing all" results from these converging synergies (Acts 10,38).
Instrument of the Holy Father's charity
The Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace was set by the Holy Father and observed on 14 December 2001, following the tragic terrorist events of 11 September and the war in Afghanistan. In launching a strong appeal for the victims of terrorism and war, the Pope entrusted "Cor Unum" with the responsibility of distributing the offerings collected on this day to the neediest, especially children, the elderly, women, the sick and the disabled.
The response was overwhelming and moving. Entire families, parish associations, work communities, religious institutes and dioceses from all over the world, above all in Italy, sent money saved on this day for the victims of the war. And donations continue to come in. Currently, over 3,000 offerings have arrived for an overall sum of about ; 1,800,000. In France, the Catholic magazine L'Homme Nouveau undertook to publicize the papal initiative. Over 600 readers sent the Holy Father a personal message of support that the newspaper transmitted to "Cor Unum", which then informed His Holiness. By a disposition of the Holy Father, "Cor Unum", in the first months of this year, has already sent $ 950,000 U.S. of aid to help Afghan refugees, victims of the war in the Middle East, and Iraqi refugees, and set up a scholarship fund for a child orphaned in New York by the terrorist attack. Another donation of $ 50,000 U.S. was sent to St Vincent's Medical Center in New York to help the victims of the terrorist attack. On his recent Apostolic Visit, the Holy Father donated $ 100,000 U.S. for the refugees in Azerbaijan.
On 29 November, in the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome, the Roman nobility gathered with important members of the business community for a solemn Mass to pray for peace and for the victims of terrorism and war. The collection (over 10 billion Lit) that "Cor Unum" distributed in the name of the Holy Father was given to help Afghan refugees.
In conformity with the Letter for the establishment of "Cor Unum" (Paul VI, Amoris officio, 15 July 1971), and in the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of Pope John Paul II, "Cor Unum" was able to distribute funds to support projects designed to alleviate and rehabilitate the most vulnerable sectors of the populations of different countries hit by disaster and war, so as to foster their integral human advancement. This was thanks to the generosity of believers and of the ecclesial and religious institutes that entrusted to the Holy Father their collections out of love for their neighbour in difficulty, in the different parts of the world.
Tables 1 and 2 show in brief chronological order the Council's contribution to the emergency sector and to integral human advancement.
Table 1. EMERGENCIES
Table 2. AID FOR PROJECTS FOR HUMAN ADVANCEMENT
John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel
Set up by John Paul II in 1984, the Foundation continues its work, to combat drought and desertification in the nine countries of the Sahel region and to train specialized personnel for this work. In the yearly meeting held at N'Djamena, Chad, from 4 to 11 February, the Board of Directors allocated funds for 230 projects for a total of $ 1,974,305.00 U.S. Table 3 shows the distribution of the projects.
Table 3. DISTRIBUTION OF PROJECTS
A0) Environment; A1) Agriculture; A2) Livestock raising B0) Animation; B1) Self-Promotion; C0) Water Supply; D) Health Care; E) Technical training
; F) Other.
The financing of the projects was made possible by the generous contribution of Italian Catholics, and was handled by the Committee of the Italian Bishops Conference for Charitable Contributions to the third world, and by 90% of the interest generated by the invested funds of the Foundation. They were the result of an earlier collection taken up in Germany on the occasion of the Pope's Apostolic Visit in 1980. French Catholics have also made a generous contribution.
foundation Populorum Progressio
On 22 February 1992 Pope John Paul II set up the Foundation on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the Gospel's arrival in South America. Its goal is to favour the integral human development of the impoverished Indigenous, Mestizo and African-American rural communities of Latin America and the Caribbean.
At the annual meeting held in July in the Cobán, Guatemala, the Foundation's Board of Directors, under the presidency of Archbishop Fabio Betancur Tirado of Manizales, Colombia, approved 216 projects for a total of $ 1,773,700 U.S. The President and Undersecretary of the Dicastery were present at the session. The Undersecretary is a member of the Board of Directors and the President of Cor Unum is the President and Legal Representative of the Foundation. Limited resources did not permit the Foundation to satisfy fully all the requests that were submitted. There were 294 requests for the sum of $ 2,912,113.00 U.S. Table 4 offers a picture of the Foundation's contribution.
It may be said that the Italian faithful supported the Populorum Progressio Foundation and John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel equally.
Table 4. FOUNDATION'S CONTRIBUTION
Visits to disaster-stricken areas
The duty of the members and those responsible for "Cor Unum" towards those suffering from disaster and war, or from the many forms of poverty, is not confined merely to making financial contributions.
There have been two large-scale emergency situations whereby the Holy Father, after having made strong appeals for international solidarity, wanted to show his concern for the populations in the worst plight.
The first mission was to the peoples of El Salvador in Central America, who were hit by a violent earthquake. From 23 to 27 January, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of "Cor Unum", was able to meet the Bishops, the representatives of the local and foreign relief organizations, and to make an on-site visit to the earthquake victims. The Archbishop not only brought the Holy Father's sympathy and encouragement, but he also entrusted to the President of the Episcopal Conference an offering of $ 100,000 U.S. to bring relief to the victims. Another $ 50,000 U.S. was sent by "Cor Unum" in February. Archbishop Cordes thanked the representatives of Catholic Agencies on behalf of His Holiness during the meeting, and emphasized how Christian solidarity, inspired by the charity of Christ, is the characteristic that distinguishes their work.
The second mission dealt with the tragic consequences of the terrorist attack of 11 September in New York and the War in Afghanistan. From 25 to 30 October, the President of "Cor Unum" was sent by the Holy Father to Pakistan, where a large number of Afghan refugees had fled to the borders to escape the massive bombing. He met with seven Bishops, representatives of local and foreign Catholic Organizations that offer emergency aid to refugees, and with about 40 men and women religious who represented the missionaries on-site. He was then received in audience by General Musharraf, Head of State, who expressed the country's and his own appreciation for the great efforts made by the Pope for peace, as well as for the active presence of Catholic institutions among the most deprived. Archbishop Cordes, in the name of the Pope, entrusted to the President of the Episcopal Conference an initial contribution of $ 200,000 U.S. for the relief needed most urgently.
Including the above-mentioned emergencies, others can be listed that were caused by disasters over the past years, and which continue to have a negative effect on the stricken population. Examples are the situation in the Balkans and the earthquake in Peru. Following his visits to the ex-Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the President of "Cor Unum" went to Belgrade in Yugoslavia from 4-6 June. Here he was able to meet the Bishops, the representatives of the social charity organizations that work on the spot, together with the civil authorities. The purpose of the visit was to encourage the relief agencies to coordinate their action.
From 21 to 22 July, the President was in Peru, visiting areas hit by the earthquake. Here he met with the Bishops, the representatives of the social charity organizations, relief workers and groups of representatives of the population hit by disaster.
The reactions to these visits show how the Pope's gesture in sending his own personal delegate helps to kindle in all those tried by suffering new hope and a feeling of genuine spiritual and material rebirth.
Vatican City, July 2002