I would like to greet all participants of the Annual Assembly of Caritas South Africa, the Caritas National Board and Coordinator – Sr Maria Rissini, Metro and Diocesan Representatives, the Caritas Chaplains and all present at this Zoom AGM.
As this is my first Assembly I will have open ears and eyes as well my heart to listen to your sharing of the Work of Charity in your communities, and the Church. It is the great opportunity for the mutual listing as we walk together in present time of the world and the Church, discovering the signs of the time that are giving us the direction of our service to those who are in the most need.
The past year was a challenging time for the CARITAS on National, diocesan and parish levels as the communities around the country, especially in Kwazulu Natal experienced many disasters, starting with unrest and looting – that made so many people suffering, who lost their property, lost jobs, and it revealed the broken hearts of people and moral disaster.
And again, the floods at the south eastern part of the country – brought so much misery to thousands of people, who often lost everything what they possessed, even lives. As well the continued terrible war in Ukraine creates instability, rising of prices, shortage of supplies – so those who are the most poor are suffering much.
This crisis situations revealed as well the heroic service of Caritas and other Church’s institutions, associations and individuals to those in need, but also vulnerability of CARITAS structures, networking, communication and ways of responding to emergency situations.
That is why today we are assembled together from the whole country to assess our responses as Caritas at different levels, as well to re-discover the vision, mission and specific identity of CARITAS.
Since 2017, when Bishop Duncan was appointed the President of Caritas South Africa – has started the official process of developing and promoting of Caritas as the Charitable Arm of the Catholic Church in the Communities, and still we are on the way, searching for the best ways to become it.
We ask ourselves what is the nature and identity of Caritas? Is it the organisation, like any NGO, or is it the Church – who is the LOVE – CARITAS.
Pope Benedict stated:
“The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the Word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia) and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable” (Deus Caritas Est, 25).
The service of charity is also a constitutive element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being (cf. ibid.); all the faithful have the right and duty to devote themselves personally to living the new commandment that Christ left us (cf. Jn 15:12), and to offering our contemporaries not only material assistance, but also refreshment and care for their souls (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 28).
The Church is also called as a whole to the exercise of the diakonia of charity, whether in the small communities of particular Churches or on the level of the universal Church. This requires organization “if it is to be an ordered service to the community” (cf. ibid., 20), an organization which entails a variety of institutional expressions.
In the APOSTOLIC LETTER “ON THE SERVICE OF CHARITY” Pope BENEDICT XVI wrote:
Art. 9. – § 1. The Bishop is to encourage in every parish of his territory the creation of a local Caritas service or a similar body, which will also promote in the whole community educational activities aimed at fostering a spirit of sharing and authentic charity. When appropriate, this service is to be established jointly by various parishes in the same territory.
This indicates that the CARITAS should be the integral part of the parish life, like the proclamation of the Word of God, and the administration of the Sacraments. It is the continuation of the Mission of Jesus, who was anointed and sent to preach the Good News to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and the recovery. Those who serve in Caritas mission must be first and foremost “true witnesses of Christ”. Pope Benedict Jesus identified himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick, the prisoners. We are called to recognise the face of Jesus in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in particular the poor and the marginalised.
That’s why the CARITAS should be a sub-structure of the Parish Pastoral Council, supported by priest, local structures and report to PPC. It should not be just taken as any NGO in the parish or Diocese, but the integral part of the Mission of the Church in today’s world.
So, let this Assembly of Caritas SA become the inspiration to promote and plant of the Spirit of Charity in the local communities, where our Church lives and fulfils her mission.
+ Stanislaw Dziuba