Food and Clothes Aren't Enough, Says Cor Unum Leader

Conference Will Consider What the Poor Most Need

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ROME, JULY 11, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Guinea-born cardinal who oversees the Church's charitable work says the poor in many countries are lacking God, more than food or clothes.

"I wouldn't be here if I had not seen men die for me, who gave me the faith, culture and so many things," Cardinal Robert Sarah said last Thursday at a conference sponsored by the University of the Holy Cross.

As president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the cardinal mentioned a conference to be held in Rome in November, which will consider the Christian identity of charity work.

Charity comes from God, the cardinal reminded. "We don't just want technicians," he said, but "witnesses of Christ, particularly if they work in the missions."

The Vatican official, who in the 80s was bishop of Conakry in Guinea, and survived a number of persecutions in Africa, stressed that in many countries "the real lack is not food or clothes, but God." Benedict XVI has pointed out how this vacuum "is the cause of suffering in society," he said.

The two-day November conference, which will also draw representatives from secular aid organizations, carries on with an initiative that responded to the Pope's first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est." Cor Unum hosted spiritual exercises for Church aid workers on various continents, and these were later replicated at local levels.

The reform at Caritas Internationalis is also part of this panorama. That organization, which last May held its general assembly, is in the midst of reasserting its Catholic identity, laid out in new statutes that are being created.

Africa

Cardinal Sarah also responded to a question about the causes of poverty in Africa, and whether local leaders or foreign investors are more to blame.

"We mustn't deny our responsibility, but also that of the powerful," the 66-year-old cardinal said. "If there are corrupt individuals it is also because there are corrupting individuals."

"Let's not forget," the cardinal reflected, "that wars allow for exploitation without rules."