Pope says Catholic charities must be Catholic

Pope Benedict XVI has asked bishops to take greater steps to ensure that Catholic charities operating in their dioceses adhere to Catholic teaching and retain their Catholic identity.

The Pope said it is the duty of diocesan bishops and parish priests to see that the faithful “are not led into error of misunderstanding” through charitable initiatives.

He said bishops and parish priests “are to prevent publicity being given through parish or diocesan structures to initiatives which, while presenting themselves as charitable, propose choices or methods at odds with the Church’s teaching”.

In a motu proprio — a letter written on his own initiative — Pope Benedict said: “I intend to provide an organic legislative framework for the better overall ordering of the various organised ecclesial forms of the service of charity.”

He gave these rules:

•   A charitable group may call itself “Catholic” only with the written consent of Church authorities. If a particular outfit is deemed to be no longer “in conformity with the Church’s teaching”, the bishop should make that known and take steps to prevent it from using the title “Catholic”.

•   Personnel must “share, or at least respect” the Catholic identity of Church-affiliated charitable organisations, and must also “give an example of Christian life” beyond their professional competence.

•   A Catholic charity may not take money “from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to the Church’s teaching”.

“Above all it’s important to remember that practical actions are never enough,” the Pope said. “Charity must express a genuine love for people, a love animated by a personal encounter with Christ.”

He cautioned that Catholic charities must avoid becoming “just another form of organised social assistance”.

The Pope gave specific praise to Caritas, saying this international agency has earned the esteem and trust of people around the world for its “generous and consistent witness of faith and ability to respond to the needs of the poor”.

He said every bishop should encourage the creation of a local Caritas service or a similar body in every parish.


The Holy See

Catholic News Agency

National Catholic Reporter

Image: Reuters

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News category: World.

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