22 May 2023, The Tablet

Sciaf’s Alistair Dutton takes up new role at Caritas Internationalis

Sciaf’s Alistair Dutton takes up new role at Caritas Internationalis

Alistair Dutton of Sciaf is to be the new secretary general of Caritas in Rome.
Chris Hoskins

The new secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, the world’s second largest humanitarian organisation, has pledged action on inequality, conflict and the climate emergency.

After his election by members from all over the world meeting in Rome, Sciaf chief executive Alistair Dutton, a former novice with the Society of Jesus, said, “Caritas has been my home, my family and my vocation for almost 30 years.” He told The Tablet, “The three big causes and manifestations of injustice in the world today are growing inequality, increasing conflict and the climate emergency. Reading the signs of the times we have to respond immediately to the harm and suffering these are causing, while tackling the deeper structural issues that are driving them.”

His election came six months after Pope Francis sacked the Caritas leadership team and two days after Archbishop of Tokyo Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi was elected president. Dutton worked with Archbishop Kikuchi when he was on the Caritas representative council and with Caritas Asia. Kirsty Robertson from Caritas Australia was elected vice-president.

Dutton said, “First and foremost I need to start listening to staff in the secretariat to understand the situation better. At the same time I will be building relationships with colleagues in the Holy See and raising Caritas’ presence in international spaces.”

He added, “Last week there was a genuine sense of the Caritas family coming together as one, with a deep desire to concentrate on the future. When I am sworn in a couple of weeks’ time, Caritas will be returned to its normal governance and executive arrangements as specified in our Statutes. When he acted in November, the Pope was clear that he did so our of care and concern for Caritas, which he values personally, and that the measures he took were only until the General Assembly we’ve just held.  Now that we have a new leadership in place, I am confident that we can put the past behind us and look to the future concentrating on what we do so well, extending the tenderness and love of the Church to those on the peripheries of society.”

Caritas as a whole does amazing work throughout the world, he said. “The general assembly was a very special time of healing and unity regarding the general secretariat. No doubt there will be issues to address – there always are – but there is real good will, energy and positivity, and I shall be trying to galvanise and focus that so we serve our national Caritas organisations in 162 countries to the best of our ability.”

Bishop Brian McGee, Sciaf’s bishop president, said, “I recently travelled to Ethiopia with Alistair to see Sciaf’s work in action. I was impressed with Alistair’s leadership, his relationship with our overseas partners, his grasp of the complex issues facing our sisters and brothers and how we can best accompany them. That his peers from across the seven continents have elected him as General Secretary in this vote, speaks volumes.”

In a statement after the sackings in November, the Vatican said, “After a review of its operations by an independent panel, the management of Caritas Internationalis has been put under temporary administration in order to improve its management norms and procedures – even while financial matters have been well-handled and fundraising goals regularly achieved – and so better to serve its member charitable organisations around the world.”

No evidence had emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but “real deficiencies” were noted in management and procedures, prejudicing team spirit and staff morale, the Vatican said last year. 




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