Cardinal Stresses Training for Charity Workers

Observes Thirst for Spirituality

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The struggle against poverty must go beyond simply pursuing working goals; it must also include forming the heart, says the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

Cardinal Paul Cordes explained this in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, in which he spoke about the objectives of the council's 28th plenary assembly currently under way in Rome.

Our goal, he said, is to find ways of forming those who work for charity groups. He noted that for this reflection, members are basing themselves in the words of Benedict XVI, who, in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," stressed the importance of "formation of the heart."

Attending the meeting, which began Thursday and will end Saturday, are members of the council, some cardinals and bishops from various parts of the world, and representatives of Catholic charitable organizations such as Manos Unidas, Caritas, and Aid to the Church in Need.

The cardinal stated, "Up to now, reflection on the struggle against poverty was focused solely on the perspective of the objectives to be pursued in the charitable endeavor."

Now, he said, "we want to overcome this limitation and concentrate on the human and spiritual quality of all those who work in Catholic charitable agencies, whether they are professionals or volunteers."

The prelate explained that this is due to the desire of responding concretely to the Pope's suggestion and putting the emphasis on "grass roots formative processes that must be carried out for the preparation of our agents."

The Church's commitment in the world of charity is very great and represents "a concrete testimony that opens the doors of many hearts," noted Cardinal Cordes.

"Precisely because of this," he added, "it is essential that those who work in this sector do so with criteria that is not just humane but also professional, and that they be motivated by the faith."

Spiritual exercises

The cardinal reported that one of the council's various initiatives aimed at fulfilling this commitment is a spiritual exercises course for Caritas leaders and other workers from Catholic charity organizations.

Last year the course was held in Guadalajara, Mexico, and was attended by some 500 persons, including priests, men and women religious and lay men and women, he noted.

Given the success of the initiative, the event was repeated this year in Taipei, Taiwan, where spiritual exercises were organized for workers on the Asian continent.

Cardinal Cordes affirmed that the resonance of events such as these shows the "thirst for spirituality in this field."

"We are happy to be able to make our contribution in identifying and satisfying this need," he said.

The prelate continued, "We want everyone to learn that evangelical charity cannot be separated from its root, the Word, and that it must always be nourished by prayer.

"The Word of God and prayer: Is there a better way for charity?"

An under-secretary of the council, Monsignor Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, explained on Vatican Radio that, with this assembly's topic, an attempt is being made "to specify the topic of formation, identifying some important elements for these formative processes."

He underlined the need to "deepen the roots of the faith, of that which is done in charity: There is a relation between faith and charity that we cannot simply ignore, but that we are constantly called to revive."

The priest affirmed that this is one of the most important tasks of the council: to "recall the roots in faith of charitable activity."