Bishops Urged to Be Leaders in Charity

Cardinal Says It's a Responsibility of Evangelization

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Bishops must be careful not to delegate too much charity work to others, as it's necessary that they take an active leadership role themselves, says the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.



Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, said this Thursday on Vatican Radio, after having returned from a trip to the United States. The cardinal participated in the U.S. bishops' fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, and met with directors of Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services.

Upon his return to Rome, the cardinal repeated his message to the U.S. bishops. He warned against a double risk: "on one hand, that bishops have the feeling that charitable works 'walk alone,' and on the other, that the organizations that carry them out are separate to the mission of the Church."

"It is necessary that bishops recover their responsibility in regard to evangelization, of which charitable action is a part," he explained.

Cor Unum's president reminded his listeners that the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" underlines "the responsibility of the bishop himself so that charity is a clearly ecclesial work. He cannot delegate completely to others: He must allow himself to be helped, always remembering that he is the decisive person in charitable work."

No accident

For Cardinal Cordes, "there is in the world today great sensitivity to the commandment to love one's neighbor," hence, "it's no accident that the Pope chose this argument for his first encyclical."

"With it, he wished to launch a message: If one loves one's neighbor, it is because he was first loved by God. Hence, it is necessary to communicate a dimension of faith to this humanism, to this philanthropy," he explained.

At present, especially in Western countries, there is a "temptation of secularism" in Catholic charitable organizations, a "tendency to be separate from the ecclesial mission," due to the fact that they must be very occupied in purely administrative aspects, explained the cardinal.

"This new orientation that tends to functionality, to social effects, does not imply necessarily an interest in the faith," he added.

The cardinal said "Deus Caritas Est" is very important, because it "underlines that the mission of the Church has two faces: to proclaim the Word of God and to do good, namely, to know that God loves his people."

In regard to the present economic crisis, Cardinal Cordes said that, although for now there has not been an increase of requests for aid in his dicastery, it is affecting the lack of liquidity.

In addition to the aid sent recently to assist the victims of the war in Congo, the cardinal mentioned the aid offered by his dicastery to those affected in the latest natural disasters, such as Pakistan's earthquake, the hurricanes that struck Cuba and Haiti, and the victims of the earthquake that recently shook China.

"This last case was a novelty,"' he said. "Despite the fact that continental China's relations with the Church aren't very easy, the Pope's aid was well received."