On Thursday in the Vatican, the Pope received members of the administrative council of the Populorum Progressio Foundation, for the occasion of their annual assembly. The foundation serves poor rural communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
When John Paul II established the foundation in 1992 and made it part of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, said the Holy Father, he was thinking "of peoples whose ancestral customs are threatened by postmodern culture, and who risk seeing the destruction of their traditions which are so ready to accept the truth of the Gospel. The work begun 15 years ago must continue, following the principles that have distinguished its commitment in support of the dignity of all human beings, and of the fight against poverty."
Benedict XVI then went on to consider some of the characteristics of the foundation. "In the first place," he said, "the development of peoples must maintain, as a pastoral principle, a comprehensive anthropological view of human beings, something the second article of the foundation's Statues calls 'integral promotion'," which "takes the social and material aspect of life into account, as well as the announcement of faith which gives full meaning to man's life, Often, man's real poverty is his lack of hope, the absence of a Father to give meaning to his existence."
"The second characteristic," the Pope continued, "is the exemplary working method employed by the foundation, a model for all aid organizations. Projects are studied and evaluated by an administrative council made up of bishops from various parts of Latin America. Thus, the decision rests in the hands of people who well know the problems and concrete needs of those peoples."
"In this way," said the Holy Father, "on the one hand, we avoid a certain form of paternalism that is always humiliating for the poor and that curbs their own initiatives and, on the other, the funds in their entirety reach the most needy without getting lost in large bureaucratic systems.
"Latin America," he added, "is a part of the world rich in natural resources where differences in standards of living must give way to the spirit of sharing wealth."
The Holy Father concluded by highlighting how, "in the face of secularization, the proliferation of sects and the extreme poverty of so many brothers and sisters, there is a pressing need to form communities united in faith, like the Holy Family of Nazareth, in which the joyful witness of those who have met the Lord may be a light to illuminate the way of people seeking a more dignified life."