The National Catholic Review
As a product of Jesuit education who has dedicated his professional life to working in an international humanitarian agency of the Church, I’ve taken particular inspiration from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals. I was particularly struck by how the Holy Father described charitable works as being central to the life of the Church and as central to the spiritual lives of all of us as members of the Church. In Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict makes the point so clearly that it’s almost startling. He states that, "The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word." (#22) Pope Benedict makes it clear to us that loving our neighbor, assisting our neighbor, being present with our neighbor in need is not an option for us as Catholics. Christian charity is not merely another form of philanthropy; rather it is rooted in our spirituality. Pope Benedict also offers us a wonderful description of how we embrace our mission of serving the poorest of the poor, from the slum dwellers of Nairobi to Iraqi refugees struggling to make it in Beirut to tsunami survivors rebuilding their lives in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Again, let me quote from Deus Caritas Est:
Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. (#31)
Pope Benedict reminds us that this is what is required of us as we reach out to our brothers and sisters. We are called to take on an attitude of openness and humble accompaniment. We are called to build bridges of understanding, compassion and justice -- which is all another way of saying we are working to create global solidarity. We are called to be One Human Family. While the media may focus on issues that make for good headlines, this is the message from Pope Benedict that I hope American Catholics take to heart. Ken Hackett, President, Catholic Relief Services