Ousted head of Caritas accuses Vatican of “brutal power grab”

"brutal power grab"

The former head of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s charitable arm, has accused the Vatican of a “brutal power grab” in an open letter published just days before the organisation’s General Assembly.

Aloysius John, who was removed from his position as secretary-general in November 2022, alleged that his ousting was a result of the “deliberate will” of some Vatican officials.

Pope Francis removed the entire leadership of Caritas Internationalis after an independent review reportedly found deficiencies in the organisation’s “management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.”

The review examined “the workplace environment of the [Caritas Internationalis] General Secretariat and its alignment with Catholic values of human dignity and respect for each person.”

Mr John, a French citizen of Indian descent, claimed that Caritas leaders from wealthier “Northern” regions never wanted a leader from the “South”. The Caritas president, Filipino Cardinal Antonio Tagle, was also removed from his position during the clean-out of top management.

There was no evidence of financial wrongdoing or sexual misconduct, the Vatican said. But former employees described a toxic workplace environment under John, where staff were bullied, harassed and humiliated. As a result, several quit, giving up sought-after income tax-free Vatican employment rather than remain in abusive conditions.

Caritas was functioning well

John insists that Caritas was functioning well and was in good financial shape when he was fired. He also said he had sought the independent inquiry to better support staff who had complained.

He said the Vatican’s decision to fire him was “made in haste, with incredible violence and very poor public communication.” He added the decision had “discredited the Church and one of its jewels, Caritas Internationalis.”

“It is a brutal power grab,” he wrote of the takeover by the Vatican’s development office.

The confederation’s general assembly will take place from 11-16 May, during which new leaders of 162 national chapters will be elected.

John warned attendees to “guard against any ‘political’ drift and thus remain at the service of the poor, in the spirit of the Gospel.” He also thanked Caritas Internationalis members who proposed that he run for this year’s assembly but alleged that the Candidature Committee “arbitrarily and without any explanation rejected” the proposal.

Caritas Internationalis, founded in 1951, is a Catholic confederation of 162 charitable organisations in 200 countries worldwide. The governance of Caritas Internationalis is elected for four-year terms during the general assembly.


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