This afternoon the Pope celebrated a mass to mark the opening of the Caritas Internationalis Assembly, not merely a humanitarian organization. And he appealed once again for Christians who have been chased from their homes and churches
“One day” God will call “judge” the “powerful of this earth”, revealing “whether they really tried to provide Him with food through each and every person and whether they have taken action to prevent the environment from being destroyed.” These were the words Pope Francis used to open the 20th Caritas Internationalis Assembly, in a mass he celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica this afternoon. The Assembly will run from 12 to 17 May and is titled “One Human Family, Food for All”. The Pope emphasized that Caritas is “not just a humanitarian organization”, nor do its headquarters “head” local Caritas’s; rather, it reveals “the desire of the Church to meet Jesus in each and every person, especially when these people are poor and suffering”. Today, Francis renewed his appeal for the world not to forget its Christian brothers and sisters who “have been chased from their homes and churches which have sometimes been destroyed”.
Caritas, the Pope said, “is a big Confederation renowned throughout the world for its work. Caritas represents the Church in many parts of the world and needs to spread even further in all the various parishes and communities in order to repeat what happened in the early days of the Church. Indeed, embracing God and others simply and obediently is at the very heart of your service. This is the root of what you do. If this root is removed, Caritas dies.
This embrace is takes place within you so that you may go into the world and serve in the name of Christ, whom you have met and whom you meet in each and every brother and sister you approach. And it is precisely for this reason that you are avoid merely becoming a humanitarian organization. The Caritas of each local Church is the same, there are no big or small Caritas’, all of them are equal,” Francis added. “We ask the Lord that we may take this on board and discard the idea that organised centralism is the way forward. We ask him for the grace of understanding that Caritas is always in the peripheries, in each of the local Churches, for the grace of understanding that the central Caritas branch is simply service, an experience of communion and that it is not the boss. Those who experience the Caritas mission are not merely operators, but witnesses of Christ. People who seek Christ and allow themselves to be sought by Christ; they are people who love with the spirit of Christ, the spirit of gratuity, of giving. All our strategic planning is empty if we do not carry this love within us. Not our love, His love. O better still, our love, purified and strengthened by His love. This makes it possible to serve everyone and lay the table for everyone. This is another beautiful image that the Word of God presents us with today: laying the table. God still prepares the Eucharistic table now.”
“Caritas,” the Pope went on, “lays so many tables for those who are hungry. Over the past few months you have been engaged in the great campaign “One Human Family, Food for All”. There are still so many people waiting to be adequately fed. There is food for everyone on this planet, but it seems that people are not willing to share this food with everyone. To lay the table for everyone and ask for everyone to have a table to sit down to. We must do what we can in order to ensure that everyone can eat; the powerful of this earth must remember that the day will come when God will cast his judgement and will reveal “whether they really tried to provide Him with food through each and every person and whether they have taken action to prevent the environment from being destroyed, ensuring that it can produce this food. And thinking of the Eucharistic table, we cannot forget those Christian brothers and sisters who have been violently deprived of both food for their bodies and food for their souls: they were chased from their homes and from their churches which have sometimes been destroyed. I renew my appeal to you not to forget these people and these unacceptable injustices,” Francis said.
“Together with many other of the Church’s charitable organisations, Caritas reveals the strength of Christian love and the desire of the Church to go out and meet Jesus in every person, particularly when they are poor and suffering. This is the journey we have ahead of us and I hope this will be the aim of your work over the next few days. We entrust this work to the Virgin Mary, who made the embrace of God and of others the central criterion of her life. Tomorrow we shall celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Fatima who appeared in order to proclaim the victory over evil. With a support like this we should have no fear in continuing our mission.” Faithful’s prayers were pronounced in French, Arabic, English, Swahili and Spanish.