Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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ZE08090205 – 2008-09-02

Cardinal Says Economic Inequality a “Dramatic” Problem

DAR-ES-SALAAM, Tanzania, SEPT. 2, 2008 ( The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace announced the forthcoming publication by the Holy See of a document analyzing poverty in the context of globalization.

Cardinal Renato Martino revealed news of the publication during a 4-day congress on evangelization last week in Dar-Es-Salaam organized by the dicastery.

The theme of the conference was “Toward a New Evangelization of African Society in Accordance with the Social Doctrine of the Church.”

During the conference Cardinal Martino officially presented the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which was published in October 2004, to the Church in Africa.

The cardinal stated that “since the Second Vatican Council, the preferential option for the poor is one of the points that most characterizes the social doctrine of the Church,” reported Vatican Radio.

“Poverty and, above all, the growing inequality between areas, continents and countries, including within the latter, constitutes the most dramatic problem facing the world today,” he added.

The cardinal explained that the new document of the dicastery will attempt to offer concrete answers to the problem of poverty in keeping with the Church’s social doctrine.

Evangelical approach

“The intention is to point out an evangelical approach to combat poverty, to identify — both at the national and the international level — those responsible for combating poverty, to sensitize the Church to greater and more articulated attention to and awareness of the problems of poverty and of the poor of the world,” he said.
“It must not be forgotten that today extreme poverty has, above all, the face of women and children, especially in Africa,” the cardinal added.

Cardinal Martino said that the dynamism of evangelization “must drive the Church to privilege the poor, to direct our strength to the poor, to consider the renewal of society from the needs of the poor.”

In regard to globalization, the cardinal pointed out that “an indispensable act of charity” is the “determination that has as its end the organization and structure of society so that a neighbor does not have to live in misery.”

He said this determination must be all the greater if one takes into account that poverty “is a situation facing a great number of people, including whole populations, a situation that today has acquired the proportions of a real worldwide social issue.”

Filed under: Cor Unum, Economic Policy, Papal Teachings, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

Charity Workers Invest Time to Pray

ZE08071410 – 2008-07-14

Charity Workers Invest Time to Pray

Interview With Cardinal Paul Cordes of Cor Unum

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, JULY 14, 2008 ( A spiritual retreat for leaders of Catholic charities on the American continent was not a waste of time, but rather a way to make them more efficient, explained the cardinal who oversees the Church’s charity work.

Cardinal Paul Cordes presides over the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican dicastery that coordinates the charitable activity of Catholic institutions around the world. It also distributes aid from the Pope, offered as a gesture of charity to populations struck by natural disasters or war.

In this interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Cordes talks about the first ever spiritual exercises organized by the pontifical council for directors of diocesan and national Caritas organizations and other Catholic charitable organizations. The exercises were held June 1-6 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and directed by the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

Q: For the first time, directors of some of the Church’s charitable institutions met in a continental retreat to meditate and pray. During those days there were global emergencies, such as the global food crisis, which leaves the peoples of developing countries going hungry. Wasn’t a retreat a waste of time?

Cardinal Cordes: Indeed, it might seem that way, at least at the practical level. However, I think a better service can be offered the poor only when people who are dedicated to charitable activities are profoundly and solidly rooted in Christ and in ecclesial life.

This meeting was a strong investment: The efficacy of the Church’s charitable action does not depend — as Benedict XVI states in his encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” — only on professionalism and the amount of interventions. What characterizes charitable intervention is its insertion in the Church’s life itself, the fact of taking to men a message of hope and love, the love of God, in fact, for those who suffer most. This transforms aid into an act of charity, as understood in sacred Scripture.

The Holy Father says that an activity of Christian aid must be, in the first place, professional and efficient, but that this is not enough in itself. We organized the spiritual exercises in Guadalajara precisely in response to this “not enough.” We witnessed that, although the dioceses already take the spiritual aspect into account, people have a great thirst for meetings of this sort. At the end of the exercises, one of the participants said to me: “Your Eminence, I return to my diocese, to my work, as though recharged, and with a great and renewed desire to continue serving, helping my neighbor as the Church requests.”

Q: Many describe the Catholic Church as “the largest nongovernmental organization of the world.” Do you agree with this definition? What is the difference between the Church and any other nongovernmental organization?

Cardinal Cordes: Father Cantalamessa, who directed the retreat with his conferences, has often addressed this argument. The greatest charity consists in helping our neighbor by offering him, along with concrete aid, also the greatest, most ineffable good: Christ himself. Therefore, the Church is called to help the poor, the needy, people hit by calamities in their material needs; but along with this, one who acts as a Christian — that is, from his faith — is called to take the love that God has as Father to each man, especially to those who suffer.

Nongovernmental organization are used to reflecting on the problems of the world, such as disasters, hunger, drought, migrations and war, in order to be able to address these challenges, especially, politically and technically. In giving priority to these practical and organizational interventions, the profound spiritual aspect is easily lost. From the quantitative point of view and using purely sociological categories, we can certainly confirm that the Catholic Church is the world’s largest Nongovernmental organization, but this “primacy” is of little interest to us. The Church hopes to be a sign, to make visible the fact that no person has ever been excluded from God’s paternal concern even if he is stricken by destructive, terrible and dehumanizing poverty. And, no less important, is to proclaim that there is eternal life.

In addition to this, there is a second argument. The great strength of the Church is found in the fact that often those who act in her are “incarnated,” rooted in the concrete realities, in their field: They are present, they come from the same situations of suffering, they know them personally. Moreover, we have an extraordinary resource: Most of the volunteers offer their help for free. They commit themselves even before the arrival of funds or means sent by others.

Q: The Pope sent a message to the participants inviting them to intensify their friendship with Christ. Addressing those in charge of large aid institutions, it would seem that this message did not address its specificity: aid, development. Do you share this judgment?

Cardinal Cordes: A pastoral impulse should not stress so much the qualities already practiced by those who are listening, but rather aspects sometimes taken for granted and which, instead, should be reinforced. The Pope thinks that, to address the real problems better, what is necessary as foundation and point of departure is friendship with Christ. This friendship makes the agent of charity a Good Samaritan, according to the model and example of Christ.

Q: Father Raniero Cantalamessa has said that the Church should not only work with the poor but should be poor. What does this mean and how do you see this invitation?

Cardinal Cordes: Father Cantalamessa, who has truly addressed the core of the problem, stressed the importance of the way the Church presents herself when helping the poor. In this connection, he gave the example of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Church makes herself credible by the way she presents herself before the various forms of poverty. Significant is the anecdote often mentioned of the journalist who, on visiting the House of the Dying in Kalighat, and after seeing the work of the religious who cared for the patients, exclaimed: “I wouldn’t do this for a million dollars!” To which Mother Teresa responded: “Nor would I!”

Mother Teresa had understood, in her charism of help for the unfortunate, that in each poor person we are serving Christ. If I do not appear poor before the poor man, before Christ himself, I will not be living true charity.

Q: What were the participants’ reactions to this new experience of spiritual exercises?

Cardinal Cordes: Many testimonies of satisfaction and gratitude. We are now preparing a publication in various languages with some experiences, as a memento for the participants. Moreover, some of the participants have already included in their agendas the taking of these exercises to their dioceses, in agreement with the local bishop.

Q: It’s the first time an organization of the Holy See organizes such a meeting. Will there be others?

Cardinal Cordes: We hope so, given the joy and enthusiasm experienced, lived and referred to by the participants. I sincerely hope, from my heart, that this experience might be repeated also in other continents.

Filed under: Cor Unum

What I Did in Guadalajara: Spiritual Exercises for Charities/Caritas Directors

From Roundtable of Diocesan Social Action Directors Newsletter, National Pastoral Life Center

by Brian Corbin
Executive Director, Catholic Charities Services & Health Affairs
Diocese of Youngstown, OH

I gratefully participated as one of approximately 75 US delegates at the “Spiritual Exercises” sponsored by The Pontifical Council, Cor Unum (One Heart). This Vatican dicastery, organized by Pope Paul VI, helps to coordinate the charitable works of the Church on a global level, fosters the catechesis of charity, and operates various development foundations. Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes , in attendance with us, serves as President of the Council.

Over 450 Catholic Charities/Caritas directors from all the countries of North, Central, South America and the Caribbean came to Guadalajara, Mexico from June 1-June 6, 2008 to engage in a first ever hemispheric retreat led by the Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap. Two major aspects moved me during this unique experience: 1) the power of the reflections by Fr. Cantalamessa on the nature and work of “charity/Love” based on the papal encyclical Deus Caritas Est; and, 2) the interactions I had with many directors of Catholic Charities (or Caritas in all other parts of the world except in the US).

Fr. Cantalamessa led us in a series of meditations that helped us as “Caritas” workers to integrate in our agencies and personal lives various aspects of systematic theology, spirituality and Scripture. He called us to meditate on the six strophs/verses of the ancient hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Ghost). I gained a much deeper insight into the work and theology of the Trinity through his reflections on the power and gifts of the Spirit. Cantalamessa continued his meditations on four specific “beatitudes” (blessed are the poor, the meek, the hungry, the peacemakers) and challenged us to review in our own lives how these impact us as leaders of Catholic Charities/Caritas agencies. He then led a series of meditations on several well known parables: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and Lazarus and Dives, and again called us to better understand how these stories form our spiritual lives and apostolates. Finally, during the daily Eucharistic celebrations, Cantalamessa preached on the various aspects of the Mass (the Word, the Eucharist, Communion) and on Mary. Some very specific themes that impacted me specifically related to the Christian call to holiness, the need to refuse/reject “indifference,” and the radical witness of the call to love God and our Neighbor.

Another aspect that moved me involved the interactions I had with Caritas Directors from many other countries of the American hemisphere. I gained new insights into the work of the Church in various dioceses of the Caribbean, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala to name a few. I grew to appreciate how the Church is a trans-national/global institution with local outreach in almost every neighborhood on earth. I learned that even though I need to focus my work in my own diocese, that there is a need to find ways to connect to our brothers and sisters around the world. I gained an appreciation on how some of our fellow directors are personally at risk for their work. I experienced how all of us share in the work of the Church continuing Jesus’ call to be servants. The mission is universal: be a sign of God’s love in the world.

I left this retreat more committed to living out my faith – both personally and institutionally — as a director of a Caritas agency in the US. We are called to act –and love– locally and think globally by practicing some of core insights of our faith: solidarity and communion.

Books by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, Preacher of the Papal Household:

  • Come, Creator Spirit: Meditations on the Veni Creator Liturgical Press (May 2003)
  • Contemplating the Trinity: The Path to the Abundant Christian Life Word Among Us Press (January 15, 2007)
  • The Eucharist, Our Sanctification Liturgical Press (January 1993)

Filed under: Cor Unum

Reflections on my trip to Guadalajara Mexico for Cor Unum

See my reflections on my trip to Mexico for Cor Unum meeting of Caritas agency leaders in the Americas


From the Roundtable of Social Action Directors, National Pastoral Life Center

Filed under: Caritas, Cor Unum, Personal Reflections, ,

Cor Unum Gathering in the Americas for Caritas


VATICAN CITY, 30 MAY 2008 (VIS) – The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” today announced that from 2 to 6 June a series of spiritual exercises will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, under the direction of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap., preacher of the Pontifical Household.
Some 500 men and women from North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, leaders of the Catholic Church’s mission of charity, will participate in the initiative. The Holy Father has sent them a Message in which he “invites all to intensify their friendship with the Lord Jesus. This divine dimension of love characterises the Church’s charitable organisations and makes their activity irreplaceable”.

The “Cor Unum” English-language communique continues: “The generosity of people today and their willingness to help whenever catastrophe strikes, such as the tsunami or the cyclone in Myanmar, is truly impressive. At the same time, Christians are convinced that, beside material assistance, human affliction needs a message of hope that only Christ can give though faith-filled witness. The Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’, the dicastery of the Holy See charged with orienting and co-ordinating the Church’s charitable activities, has proposed this gathering as a school for deepening faith”.

Filed under: Caritas, Cor Unum, Social Doctrine