The first words of this report need to be ‘thank you’.
As a family, we express great concern for persons in need in many ways. On all levels I feel a great solidarity, first and foremost among ourselves, together with people who suffer, who are excluded, all over the world, and also with those we rely on for funds and support. We are like a beautiful web reaching out in beneficial love in all directions. At the heart of this web is what we read in the gospel, a message we make concrete, especially for those who need affection and love. Pope Francis calls us the ‘concrete arm of the Church’, this means that we are asked to bring the love of Christ to the people. And truly, as part of our core values, we make it clear that every person is at the centre of our attention and effort: ‘Caritas Europa believes that we are part of one human family, all made in the image of God. Each person should be able to develop his or her own life as fully as possible” (Strategic framework of Caritas Europa Network 2020).
We know we are not alone in this endeavour. We are part of Caritas Internationalis, with its different regions, and with each of our own European Member Organisations. A Caritas worker or volunteer never stands alone, but with a worldwide family, present with the same spirit and love. This Regional Conference is an expression of the same common concern about how to be able to reach people who are suffering, often caused by war or social injustice, and unjust economical and financial systems. The first elements indicated in our guiding principles are solidarity, fraternity and graciousness. We all understand from our own experience that no real service can be rendered in the case where we only think of ourselves first. We feel the responsibility for every human person, it weighs on our shoulders as so many people find themselves in impossible situations. However, there is the important element of our faith. We are a Catholic organisation, this means that we are never alone in our effort to alleviate the suffering of the whole world. The cross of Christ as well as his way of dealing with the sick and the marginalized is always in front of us to tell us that we do not operate in our own name but as his witnesses.
This invites me to make a reflection: looking at the signs of the times, for example in this period of increased refugee flow, we need to learn to approach this situation not only in a structural and operational manner, but in a contemplative way (E. G. 264). Pope Francis insists that it is not meetings and pastoral plans that are solutions to problems, they are rather activities which should start from a serious meditation that enters into the basic level of our human experience. Beginning with the reflection on the humanity of God who came to us through Christ. With this spirit it will be possible to reach out to the complexity of our world. “It means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter” (E.G. 188). This makes it clear that we will never be caring only for the person close-by, and that we will always be connected, with the bigger family of Caritas, worldwide. This opens our own local or national organisation to the needs of people spread over the whole world. Finally, “we work for the Kingdom bringing to life the social teaching of the universal Church, inspired by the Scriptures and the tradition of the Catholic Church” (Serving out of love, p. 14).
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