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Caritas Internationalis brought into the Vatican fold

VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican has published a decree establishing new statutes and norms for the governance of Caritas Internationalis, which attribute to Vatican offices, including the Secretariat of State, greater authority over the work, direction and policies of the Catholic aid agency.

The decree strengthens the roles Vatican offices play, as well as giving the pope a stronger hand in naming and approving new board members and approving its public statements, contracts with foreign governments and financial transactions.

It also creates a special legal, technical and organisational support commission, which will be named by the pope to ensure that the organisation is following the new norms, as well as canon law and the laws of Vatican City State concerning the procurement and distribution of aid and employment of staff.

At least three members of the Caritas executive will be papal appointments and Pope Benedict XVI has already named Bishop Bernard Hebda, from the United States of America, to the board.

The general decree, signed by the Vatican secretary of state, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, and approved by Pope Benedict, was published on May 2, taking effect the same day. The new statutes and internal rules of the federation are published on the Caritas website.

Oscar Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, from Honduras, the president of Caritas Internationalis, said, “This is a day of joy and hope.”

He added, “Our new statutes and rules will modernise our work in delivering humanitarian assistance and development in service to the poor. They will provide us with the framework to carry out our work as part of the mission of the Church.”

The secretary general, Michel Roy, said the new statutes and rules clarify that Caritas is “both at the service of the confederation members and of the Holy See.”

The revision process began in 2007, after Pope John Paul II had raised the technical status of the federation to a public juridical entity of the Church in 2004.

The new status formally recognised that Caritas carries out its charitable activities in the name of the Catholic Church and it means the organisation will function under the administration of the Vatican.

The original statutes were approved by the Vatican in 1951. Caritas is made up of 164 relief, development and social service agencies working in almost 200 countries. Most of the member agencies are either Caritas or relief and development agencies sponsored by national bishops’ conferences.

Cor Unum is the Vatican office responsible for coordinating and promoting charitable giving.

Monsignor Osvaldo Neves de Almeida, from secretariat of state, said in an explanatory statement accompanying the decree that the updated status was meant to better support the federation’s activity.

Given Caritas’ worldwide presence, international profile and that it acts in the name of the Church, Cardinal de Almeida said, “It has the task of following its activity and exercising vigilance in order that both its humanitarian and charitable action and the content of the documents that it disseminates may be in harmony with the Apostolic See and with the Church’s magisterium, and in order that it may be administered with competence and transparency.”

The secretariat of state will have to approve official grants coming from governments and international organisations and non-emergency aid and development projects that have been started or are being run by Caritas Internationalis.

Cor Unum and the secretariat of state will have to be notified of any agreements made with government authorities or non-governmental organisations when Caritas responds to emergency humanitarian situations.

The new norms are part of Pope Benedict XVI’s concern over the authentic Catholic identity of Church-run or sponsored aid and development programmes and his teaching that Catholic charitable activity should not be simple philanthropy, but a reflection of Christian faith and the obligation to love others as Christ loved.....

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