On Friday, the Holy Father received participants in the 18th General Assembly of the Caritas Internationalis Confederation. They were led by Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga S.D.B., archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, whom the general assembly had elected as the new president of the group.
Speaking in English, the Pope recalled that Caritas Internationalis today numbers more than 150 national organizations and that Servant of God John Paul II conferred public and canonical legal personality upon the confederation. "This means," he said, "that your confederation does not simply work on behalf of the Church, but is truly a part of the Church, intimately engaged in the exchange of gifts that takes place on so many levels of ecclesial life. As a sign of the Holy See's support for your work, Caritas Internationalis has been granted its wish to be accompanied and guided by the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum'."
The mission of the confederation, said Benedict XVI, is "to assist in the Church's mission to spread throughout the world the love of God. … Charity has to be understood in the light of God Who is 'Caritas': God who loved the world so much that he gave His only Son. In this way we come to see that love finds its greatest fulfillment in the gift of self. This is what Caritas Internationalis seeks to accomplish in the world. The heart of Caritas is the sacrificial love of Christ, and every form of individual and organized charity in the Church must always find its point of reference in Him, the source of charity.
"This theological vision," he added, "has practical implications for the work of charitable organizations. … The first is that every act of charity should be inspired by a personal experience of faith, leading to the discovery that God is Love. … Only when charitable activity takes the form of Christ- like self-giving does it become a gesture truly worthy of the human person created in God's image and likeness."
"The second implication follows closely from the first. God's love is offered to everyone, hence the Church's charity is also universal in scope, and so it has to include a commitment to social justice."
"For this reason, the great challenges facing the world at the present time, such as globalization, human rights abuses, unjust social structures, cannot be confronted and overcome unless attention is focused on the deepest needs of the human person: the promotion of human dignity, well-being and, in the final analysis, eternal salvation."
The Holy Father concluded his address by assuring those present that "there are countless men and women whose hearts are filled with joy and gratitude for the service you render them. I wish to encourage each one of you to persevere in your special mission to spread the love of Christ, Who came so that all may have life in abundance."