Vatican City, 13 May 2015 (VIS) – “Whoever lives the mission of Caritas is not simple charitable worker, but is a true witness of Christ. He is a person who seeks Christ and allows Christ to seek him; people who love with the spirit of Christ, a spirit of gratuitousness. … All of our strategies and plans remain empty unless we carry this love in us”, said Pope Francis in the homily he pronounced yesterday in St. Peter's Basilica on the occasion of the beginning of the 20th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis.
The Pope commented on the reading from the Acts of the Apostles in which the jailer of the prison at Philippi, where Paul and Silas were imprisoned, following the miracle of the earthquake that opened the doors of the prison, pleaded for salvation. The story tells us that the man immediately “took the necessary steps on the path towards faith and salvation: together with his household, he listened to the Word of the Lord; washed the wounds of Paul and Silas; received Baptism with his entire family; and finally, full of joy, he welcomed Paul and Silas into his home, setting the table and offering them something to eat”.
“We can see in this gesture the entire vocation of Caritas. Caritas is now a great Confederation, widely recognised throughout the world for its work and accomplishments. Caritas is a reality of the Church in many parts of the world and must still seek a greater expansion in the different parishes and communities, to renew what took place in the early days of the Church. In fact, the source of all your service lies in the simple and docile welcome of God and neighbour. This welcome is first personally experienced by you, so that you may then go out into the world, and there, to serve others in the name of Christ, whom you have met and whom you will continue to meet in every brother and sister that you will approach as your neighbour. Thanks to this, you will actually avoid the risk of being reduced to a mere humanitarian organisation. And the Caritas of each particular Church, even the smallest, is the same: there is no large Caritas and small Caritas, they are all equal. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to understand the true dimension of Caritas; the grace of not being deceived into thinking that a well-organised centralism is the road to take; the grace of understanding that Caritas is always in the periphery, in each particular Church; and the grace of believing that central Caritas is merely a help, service and experience of communion but not the overall head”.
“In this way, we can serve everyone and set the table for all. This is also a beautiful image that the Word of God offers us today: setting the table. Even now, God sets the table of the Eucharist. Caritas sets many tables for the hungry. In recent months you launched the great campaign 'One human family, food for all'. There are still so many people today who do not have enough to eat. The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone. We ought to set the table for all, and ask that there be a table for all. We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat, but we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgement one day and there it will be revealed if they really tried to provide food for Him in every person (cf. Matt.25: 35) and if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food”.
“And thinking about the table of the Eucharist, we cannot forget our Christian brothers and sisters who have been violently deprived of the food for the body and for the soul: they have been driven from their homes and their churches – at times destroyed. I renew the appeal not to forget these people and these intolerable injustices. Together with many other charitable organisations of the Church, Caritas therefore reveals the power of Christian love and the desire of the Church to reach out to Jesus in every person, especially the poor and suffering. This is the path that lies ahead of us and it is with this perspective that I hope that you will carry out your work during these days”.