14 May 2015, The Tablet

‘Francis effect’ boosts aid charity

Caritas is attracting more volunteers and donations thanks to the “Francis effect”, the general secretary of the Church’s humanitarian network said this week. Speaking at the Caritas general assembly in Rome, Michel Roy said even poor countries such as those in the Balkans had donated generously to crises such as the Nepal earthquake.

The invitation to the Peruvian priest, Fr Gustavo Gutiérrez, known as the “father of liberation theology”, to address the assembly is seen as further evidence that under Francis’ pontificate, Caritas and the Vatican have found common ground. The network had previously been criticised for not doing enough to promote an explicitly Christian message.

Delegates from 164 member organisations met in Rome for four days of talks on the theme “One Human Family, Caring for Creation”. Mr Roy said the conference goals were “a Church that is poor and for the poor, tackling growing inequality, climate change and its impact on development.”

The president of Caritas, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, who is stepping down after two four-year terms, sought to emphasise its Catholic focus, saying, “Caritas is more than just emergency response. It is educating for Christian service.” He said the conference would have a family-like atmosphere “very different to the UN”. The candidates for the next president were Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila and Maronite Archbishop Youssef Soueif of Cyprus. Pope Francis opened the conference with a Mass on Tuesday in St Peter’s Basilica. “Whoever lives the mission of Caritas is not simply a charitable worker, but a true witness of Christ,” he said.

Other speakers were to include Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the economist Jeffrey Sachs.

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