It is with profound gratitude that I look back at the seven months of 2019, during which I had the privilege to be part of the Caritas Europa team.
They were intense but very rich months, during which I had the opportunity to start building relations within the Caritas family, as well as with a number of partners and other stakeholders, such as Church actors, including the European Bishops’ conferences COMECE and CCEE, European policymakers and public authorities, European FBOs and a number of other CSOs.
My experience has been that Caritas Europa is a well-respected part of European civil society, professional, genuine and trustworthy. I think that this is how external actors generally perceive us, and I hope that this is also the experience of the member organisations, and that we manage to support the network through our coordinated European action. It has been helpful for me to start my mandate by engaging in the Strategic Planning Process of Caritas Europa, which will shape our work in the years ahead. Listening to the feedback and expectations of the member organisations has been essential in understanding how Caritas Europa can remain relevant and of benefit for members.
Discovering the Caritas network has truly been a joy, and I wish to thank all the member organisations that I had the chance to visit for welcoming me so warmly and allowing me to discover the exceptional work that you are undertaking. I look forward to continuing to discover our vast and diverse network. Wherever I have been, I have always felt the same spirit – joyful, empowering, hopeful: faith in action.
In this report, you will read about some of the work that Caritas Europa has been undertaking in the fields of advocacy, humanitarian action and institutional development in the course of 2019, under the leadership of the unit Directors Shannon, Silvia and Marc and with the great support of the colleagues in the secretariat. It is a blessing to work with such a committed and good team and it has made my introduction into Caritas Europa a lot smoother. I also want to thank Msgr. Luc as President, the Executive Board members as well as the numerous members active in our working structures for their steering and friendship. The many positive achievements and events are the result of this mutual support and collective efforts.
There were, however, difficulties in 2019 as well. Most importantly, the severe safeguarding breach in Central African Republic touched the confederation at so many levels. It has been terribly hard to discover that Caritas has a long way to go yet before we are fully accountable, responsible and transparent, and before we can guarantee that everyone is safe within Caritas. This will require time and a change in culture, but also courage and confidence and reinforced commitment and authenticity towards the very beautiful – but also very fragile – mission that we have been entrusted. It is my hope that safeguarding becomes a cornerstone in our work for the future and I will be pleased to support this as far as possible through our European action.
When writing these words, we are in the midst of the Corona pandemic, which has an enormous impact on Europe and on the whole world, affecting immensely the people that Caritas serves. As for any crisis, it is the persons in the most vulnerable situations – people experiencing poverty, migrants, homeless people, people with disabilities, people facing humanitarian emergencies – who are the first victims and who have to face most severe consequences. We were entirely unaware of what 2020 would bring when carrying out the activities referred to in this report. However, whilst we are facing an unprecedented situation with numerous consequences for the months and years ahead, the experience I had during 2019 has been confirmed at an even deeper level – Caritas stands with the people in the most challenged situations, brings about change and brings hope.
My conviction after these first months is that Caritas is a wonderful and unique organisation, even if on a journey. Nothing that we went through this year has changed my views about that. It may be a very painful journey at moments, but I wish to believe that the risen Christ is walking next to us, showing us the way when at crossroads and inviting us to not be afraid to take the difficult paths in order to move forward.
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