Rising Hunger Strained Caritas Budgets in '08

President Says Priority for Next Year Is Peace

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The president of Caritas Internationalis says 2008 was a year of challenges for the aid organization, particularly because 100 million more people are hungry this Christmas.

Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga stated this in his Christmas message, affirming that nevertheless, the organization will redouble its efforts.

"The world food crisis increased by 100 million the number of hungry persons and made it more taxing for Caritas to provide help," he explained.

And, the cardinal contended, "The impact of the financial crisis will endure for a few years. A world built on the base of the globalization of greed and fear, instead of on the base of the globalization of solidarity, was never going to be sustainable."

The cardinal expressed Caritas' fear that "the poorest, those who have benefited least from the decades of unequal economic growth, are those who will pay the highest price for this blunder."

In reviewing 2008, the Honduran prelate emphasized that "as members of Caritas, every day we see the positive effects our work can have in helping the poor to transform their own lives."

He noted, "The forgiveness of debt permitted Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and many other countries to cancel tuitions in primary schools, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in enrollment in just a few short years."

And looking toward the future, Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga said that "the construction of peace will also be one of our key priorities in the new year. In 2008, ethnic and political violence destroyed Kenya, Congo, Georgia and Sri Lanka. Progress in Afghanistan and the Holy Land stagnated.

"As a defender of peace at the national, international and base level, Caritas will redouble its efforts."