Helping the poor is always worth the risk, pope tells Caritas

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) — The work of Catholic charities in the world sometimes may run into trouble, but it is always better than having Catholics shut up in their churches doing nothing, Pope Francis said.

After celebrating Mass May 12 with representatives of national Caritas organizations from around the world, the pope sent a video message May 13 to the opening session of the Caritas Internationalis general assembly.

Being out on the streets can lead to accidents, he said, but being sealed up in a room can make one ill.

"I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he said in the message to delegates from 165 national Catholic charities.

"You are the engine of the church that organizes love — caritas — for all believers to work together to respond through the corporal works of mercy," the pope said. "You set the pace for the church to be in the world each day. You help others change the course of their own lives."

Pope Francis said that in today’s culture many times it seems that even human beings are considered "consumer goods," things to be used and then tossed aside. Exploitation and oppression have been around forever, he said, but discarding others is "something new."

"No one is to be a ‘leftover.’ No one is to be ‘excluded’ from God’s love and from our care," he said.

Caritas staff and volunteers "are the very hands of Jesus in the world," he said. They help change people’s live because they have changed their own hearts.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is finishing his second term as president of Caritas Internationalis, told participants that Catholic charities are called to minister to the poor and vulnerable who are "often considered a burden to society and don’t receive the care and love that they deserve."

Caritas, he said, is involved in "defending human dignity, building a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in safeguarding and caring for creation."

The international organization plans to make its voice heard in U.N. discussions for setting a list of "sustainable development goals," in the international negotiations on a climate agreement and in promoting Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on ecology, the cardinal said.

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