A top Vatican official has told the Catholic Church’s aid arm that it must retain a vibrant Christian identity.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, was speaking at the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis, the international alliance of Catholic aid and development agencies.
In the homily to open the assembly on Sunday, he told the charities that their work “could never be limited to assisting people’s material needs.”
He warned them against neutrality, saying that it would encourage recipients of their charity to be materialistic.
Such an act of care would not, he maintained, reflect the “full dignity” of people.
“The Church’s charitable activity, like that of Christ, could never be limited to assisting people’s material needs, however urgent and immediate those needs might be,” he said.
“A humanitarian assistance which would habitually prescind from its Christian identity, adapting a ‘neutral’ approach seeking to please everyone, would risk, even in cases where it obtained its immediate goals, failing to offer men and women a fine service consonant with their full dignity.”
He continued: “Thus, even without wishing to do so, they would eventually foster in those whom they assist a materialistic mentality which the latter would then bring to other relationships and to their approach to social issues.
“In a word: the Church must not only practice charity, but practice it as Christ did.”
Caritas’ General Assembly opened on Sunday in Rome and will run until Friday. The agenda includes discussions on the strategy for the next four years and the election of the next Caritas Internationalis president, treasurer and secretary-general, as well as representatives for its board and executive committees.