Pope Francis invites participants at the Caritas Internationalis General Assembly in Rome to reflect on three key concepts of charity, integral development and communion.
More than 300 delegates of Caritas Internationalis Member Organizations have been meeting in Rome since last week for their 21st General Assembly, on the theme “One human family, one common home.” The meeting takes place every four years to review the progress and policies of the Caritas Confederation, and to define a strategic framework that will carry it forward over the next four years.
When he received the delegates in the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis began by reaffirming how charity is not just “an offering we make in order to keep our conscience quiet.” Rather, “charity has its origin and its essence in God himself,” he said. “If we considered charity a service, the Church would become a humanitarian agency and the service of charity would become her ‘logistics department,’” said the Pope.
That is why the service of charity “must choose the logic of integral development as an antidote to the throwaway culture of indifference,” he continued. “The poor are above all persons, and their faces conceal that of Christ himself.” The Pope stressed how “the worst discrimination from which the poor suffer is lack of spiritual attention.” “They need God,” he said, “and we cannot fail to offer them His friendship, His blessing, His Word.”
Finally, “it is communion in Christ and in the Church that animates, accompanies and sustains the service of charity,” said the Pope. “In this way, the diakonia of charity becomes a visible instrument of communion…which is central in the Church, and defines its essence.”
Charity is a relationship
Pope Francis then offered other definitions of what charity is – and is not. “You cannot live charity without having interpersonal relationships with the poor,” he said, adding how charity must involve the heart, the soul and our whole being. The Pope warned against living a “hypocritical or deceptive charity,” associating charitable work with philanthropy, efficiency, or obsessive organisation. Charity is the most “coveted of the virtues to which we can aspire in order to imitate God,” he said.
Charity is not a business
“Charity,” said Pope Francis, “is not a sedative for our restless conscience.” It is also not a business. The Pope spoke of the scandal of those who “talk a lot about charity but live in luxury,” organising meetings on charity and “wasting so much money.” “Charity is not an idea or a pious feeling,” he concluded, “but an experiential encounter with Christ,” where we meet Him in the poor.
With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.