The Pope addressed foundation representatives today, who were in Rome for their annual meeting.
The Populorum Progressio Foundation, established in conjunction with the celebrations for the fifth centenary of the evangelization of the American continent, aims at the advancement of the most marginalized populations in Latin American and Caribbean societies. Much of its work is with indigenous or African-American communities.
Pope John Paul II established the foundation, naming it after Paul VI's 1967 social encyclical.
Benedict XVI recalled that John Paul II "was thinking of peoples whose ancestral customs are threatened by postmodern culture, and who risk seeing the destruction of their traditions which are so ready to accept the truth of the Gospel."
He added: "This foundation is the fruit of John Paul II's great sensitivity toward the men and women of our society who suffer the most."
Sources told ZENIT that the foundation will finance 204 projects this year valued at an estimated $1.8 million. The foundation endeavors to aid entire communities, not just individuals.
A wide variety of projects are supported by the Populorum Progressio Foundation: Aid ranges from donations for purchasing cows and tractors to money for used computers.
Benedict XIV said: "This work, begun 15 years ago, must follow the principles that have guided its efforts in favor of the dignity of the human being and its fight against poverty."
He spoke of the "foundation's exemplary work, which is a model for any aid organization."
"The projects are reviewed and evaluated by an administrative council formed by bishops of different regions of Latin American," the Pope explained. "In this manner, the decisions are in the hands of those who know the problems of the population and their specific needs.
"In this way, we avoid, on one hand, a certain degree of paternalism that can be humiliating to the poor and can stop their own enterprise; and, on the other, the allocated funds, in their entirety, reach the neediest without unnecessary bureaucracy."