The past year has been an exceptional and highly challenging time for probably all Caritas organisations in Europe and worldwide.
The pandemic is a stress test for society and for Caritas, but first and foremost a stress test for people on the fringes of society and life, for the marginalised and the poor, to whom Caritas directs its services.
For all too many people in all countries of Europe, the health crisis has long since become a social crisis as well. One in five people in Europe today live at or below the poverty line, while one in four children in Europe are poor or at risk of poverty. Inequality and exclusion are on the rise, and this is also the perception we gain from our day-to-day work. More and more people are using our advice centres, facilities and services who would never have dreamed of one day needing help from Caritas. The crisis can also be seen in the numbers. Caritas institutions are also sensors of society in this context. And our assumption is that the number of people affected by poverty and exclusion will increase in Europe, too.
It is always about concrete people, in general where the Church is lived, but especially in the actions of Caritas. It is about the poor and the equal dignity of all people. It is about love and justice. Love that turns into action. It is about the common house of creation, for which we share responsibility.
Our organisations are very different in their history and structure, but they follow a common mission. Caritas means charity with no ifs or buts; it means people helping people, face to face and around the clock, and sometimes around the world; it means ‘seeing and acting in need’. ‘For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.’¹ The place of the Church is at the side of the poor.
Notes 1. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 25a.
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