Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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The Splendor of Charity: Cardinal Cordes

“Deus Caritas Est” Entrusted to Pastors
Cardinal Cordes Addresses Bishops of England, Wales

LEEDS, England, MAY 4, 2008 ( ).- Here is an excerpt of the April 7 address given by Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, to the spring meeting of the bishops’ council of England and Wales.

The talk titled “‘Deus Caritas Est’: The Splendor of Charity” can be found in its entirety on the ZENIT Web page: .

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The primary role of the pastors

There is no doubt that “Deus Caritas Est” directs itself to various groups in the Church. Nevertheless, the main burden of responsibility for its implementation in dioceses and parishes is placed squarely on the shoulders of the bishops. It is not only the pastoral realism of the Pope, but also theological reasons that make the ordained pastors the principal target group for the encyclical.

Ever since her foundation, a threefold mission has been entrusted to the Church: She must proclaim redemption through Christ; she must bear witness to this in her good deeds toward humanity; and she must celebrate the salvation offered through Christ in the liturgy.

“Martyria,” “Diakonia” and “Leitourgia” are therefore the three basic functions of the Church that express her deepest nature. In “Deus Caritas Est,” the Pope declares strongly: “The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the sacraments and the word” (No. 22).

Indeed, the three are inextricably linked. Good deeds as the expression of the evangelical love proclaimed in the word and celebrated in the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist, occupy a central place in the evangelizing mission of the Church. This connection may well warrant further reflection, given the declining numbers of indigenous Catholics in our pews. As numerous saints have shown us, most recently Mother Teresa, in the witness of love a seed of belief can be sown in the fallen away, non-Christians and even the most skeptical.

In terms of the mission of “diakonia,” Benedict speaks emphatically in the encyclical of the Bishop’s overriding responsibility. He reminds these of the rite of the sacrament of episcopal ordination, in which the bishop receives, through the imposition of hands, the full authority of the Spirit for the government of the Church. Prior to the act of consecration itself, the candidate must respond to a series of questions posed by the presiding bishop, which, as the Pope writes, “express the essential elements of his office and recall the duties of his future ministry.”

So the candidate is asked to pledge his special responsibility for individual services. He is called to promise “expressly to be, in the Lord’s name, welcoming and merciful to the poor and to all those in need of consolation and assistance.” Of course, this obligation incumbent on the bishop does not prevent him from seeking assistance from others in his charitable mission, but he cannot set aside his ultimate responsibility for this essential service, placing it simply on others’ shoulders.

Neither can those who practice the service of charity, either individually or institutionally, disregard the bishop’s burden of leadership and this ultimate responsibility that belongs to him.

Some Catholic aid agencies actively avoid acknowledging this fact and sometimes bishops themselves fail to exercise their legitimate and necessary oversight, leading to approaches that are predominantly political or economic to the neglect of revealing through love of neighbor the love of the God of Jesus Christ.

The importance that Pope Benedict attaches to this responsibility of the bishops may be further gauged by the gentle criticism he makes in “Deus Caritas Est” of the Code of Canon Law. The encyclical remarks that in the canons on the ministry of the bishop, the Code “does not expressly mention charity as a specific sector of episcopal activity” (No. 32), implying that it lacks precision on this point.

Indeed, we should remain surprised — as does the Pope — that Canon Law devotes many paragraphs to the bishop’s role in “martyria” and “leitourgia,” but nothing regarding “diakonia.” Clearly, “Deus Caritas Est” envisages a need for clarification in this important area.

The question of God

In speaking about the encyclical, it is not seldom that the administrative concern leads many [leaders] of charitable agencies to focus principally or even perhaps exclusively on the second part. Such a focus would be to grossly ignore the fundamental vision of the author.

It is not by accident that Pope Benedict, through this fantastic text about God as the source, lays down the foundation for the incontestable criteria of all charitable love. What is more: clearly, in the cultural context, he would like to establish the strongly felt love of neighbor as a way to bring contemporary man closer again to the love of God.

In his preaching, hardly an occasion goes by that he does not attempt to reach his listeners through proclaiming this love for God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Just a few weeks ago on Palm Sunday, I was in St. Peter’s Square when the Pope made exactly this point in his homily. He spoke of how Jesus entered Jerusalem and cleansed the temple atrium, where the pagans gathered, of the animal vendors and moneychangers who had occupied the place of prayer with their own business.

From this episode, Pope Benedict draws a parallel with the atria of faith today where non-Christians look for an answer to the deepest longings of their hearts. “Is our faith pure and open enough,” he asks, “so that on this basis even the ‘pagans,’ the people who today are seeking and questioning, can glimpse the light of the one God, join in our prayer in the atria of faith, and through their questioning, perhaps, become worshipers themselves? Are we aware of how greed and idolatry affect even our own hearts and way of life?”

And then the Pope turns yet again to Jesus’ saving deeds, good works that infallibly point to God even when everything else seems hopeless. “Immediately after Jesus’ words about the house of prayer for all peoples, the evangelist [Matthew] continues in this way: ‘The blind and the lame approached him in the temple area, and he cured them.’

“To the selling of animals and the business of the moneychangers, Jesus opposes his own healing goodness. This is the true purification of the temple … Jesus comes with the gift of healing. He dedicates himself to those who because of their infirmity are driven to the extremes of their life and to the margin of society. Jesus shows God as he who loves, and his power as the power of love.”

The Splendor of Charity
Cardinal Cordes on “Deus Caritas Est”

LEEDS, England, MAY 4, 2008 ( ).- The text of the April 7 address given by Cardinal Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, to the spring meeting of the bishops’ council of England and Wales, can be found on the ZENIT Web page: .

The talk is titled “‘Deus Caritas Est’: The Splendor of Charity.”

Filed under: Caritas, Cor Unum, Social Doctrine

29 FEB 2008 (VIS)
– The Holy Father today received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, who are meeting to reflect on the theme: “Human and spiritual qualities of people who work in Catholic charity institutions”.

“Charitable activity occupies a central position in the Church’s evangelising mission”, said the Pope. We must not forget that works of charity are an important area in which to meet people who do not yet know Christ, or who know Him only partially. It is right, then, that pastors and those responsible for pastoral charity work … should concern themselves with the human, professional and theological-spiritual formation” of people who operate in this field.

“Those who work in the many forms of charitable activity of the Church cannot, then, content themselves just with offering technical services or resolving practical problems and difficulties. The assistance they provide must never be reduced to mere philanthropy but must be a tangible expression of evangelical love”.

Charity workers, the Pope explained, must be, “above all, witnesses of evangelical love”. They achieve this “if the ultimate aim of their mission is not that of being social service operatives, but of announcing the Gospel of charity. Following Christ’s footsteps, they are called to be witnesses of the value of life in all its expressions, especially defending the life of the weak and the sick, following the example of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who loved and looked after the dying, because life is not measured in terms of efficiency, but has value always and for everyone”.

Ecclesial charity workers, Benedict XVI continued, are also “called to be witnesses of love, of the fact that we fully become men and women when we live for others, that no-one must die and live for themselves alone”.

And, he concluded, charity workers “must be witnesses of God, Who is fullness of love and invites us to love”.


Filed under: Caritas, Cor Unum



VATICAN CITY, 28 FEB 2008 (VIS) – The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” today begins its 28th plenary assembly. The meeting, which will end on 1 March, is dedicated to the theme: “Human and spiritual qualities of people who work in Catholic charity institutions”.

One of the aims of the assembly is to re-examine Benedict XVI’s Encyclical “Deus caritas est” and to verify if and how it has changed the attitude of those who work in the charitable arm of the Church. Attention will also be given to the question of the integral and continuous formation of managers and workers in the various Catholic charity organisations.

The 28th general assembly will begin with an address by Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of “Cor Unum”, followed by a report from Msgr. Karel Kasteel, secretary of that pontifical council. Following this, representatives of the various charitable bodies will discuss their work experiences.

Friday 29 February will be dedicated to examining the principal theme of the meeting, the main contribution coming from the president of the Catholic charities of Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A. (NOTE: I believe that they mean Fr. Larry Snyder from CCUSA — bc)

Subsequently, Professor Paul Schallenberg of the university of Fulda, Germany, will address the gathering on the subject: “The place of mercy in the welfare State. Theological-ethical observations”. At the end of the second day, participants will visit the “Comunita dell’Agnello”, a group of female religious who operate on the streets and in homes announcing the Gospel and working with the poor.

On Saturday 1 March, working groups will meet to discuss ideas and proposals for formation.
Cardinal Cordes, in the belief that the power of Christian witness among people who suffer derives from the personal conviction of those who work in the sector of charity, has invited leaders of national and diocesan Catholic charity organisations of the American continent to a week of spiritual exercises, to be held in June in Guadalajara, Mexico.


Filed under: Caritas, Cor Unum