Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga
SAINTE-ADELE, QUE. – Charity or caritas needs to begin face-to-face, at the local parish level, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga told Canada's bishops Sept. 24.
"The bishop is to educate the faithful in the spirit of sharing and genuine charity," said the cardinal, president of Caritas Internationalis, the Holy See's charitable federation.
"Every Christian community must have a 'heart which sees' the miseries which, tragically persist around it and can attend to them."
The cardinal, who is Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, told the story of a priest in Brazil who, during the annual Lent campaign to help the poor, wondered how many poor people attended his own parish.
The priest did a survey and discovered 15 families in extreme poverty. Instead of always asking for money to help the poor, the priest realized something had to be done for the families in his own parish, the cardinal said.
He gathered members of his faithful to find ways to help. One said he could offer work to one of the families. Others stepped forward with offers. "They were organizing and it was beautiful," said Rodríguez.
"We need more organized pastoral reaction," he said, noting this comes from "knowing the reality" and acting on it.
"It's very important for the work of caritas to start at the local level," he said.
Rodríguez warned the Church is "living through a time of grave crisis."
"It's not just an economic crisis, nor is it only a cultural crisis; nor is it a crisis of faith. Today, humankind is in danger. Today, the body of Christ is in danger," he said.
"As Pope Francis said, 'Our civilization has established a throwaway culture. If it's no use, throw it away, into the garbage! Children, the elderly and outsiders. This is the crisis we're living through.'"
The cardinal warned that "without the participation of the parish," there is a danger "of Caritas organizations" becoming "only a bureaucracy distributing funds."
Rodríguez thanked the bishops for the work CCODP has done in his native Honduras, helping those affected by hurricanes or the devastation caused by international mining companies.
He also mentioned the key efforts CCODP is making in building a communication network in francophone Africa and its response to the drought in West Africa.
"You can feel very proud of Development and Peace, your Caritas organization in Canada," he said.