By Linda Bordoni
Aloysius John’s election came at the end of the confederation’s 31st General Assembly during which Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle was reconfirmed as President.
John succeeds Michel Roy who finishes his two-term mandate this year. He is no stranger to the Rome headquarters of Caritas Internationalis where he has been heading the Institutional Development and Capacity Strengthening of the network.
After having been elected by the representative council following four days of intense meetings to plan out the Catholic confederation’s strategic direction for the next four years, Aloysius John told Linda Bordoni of his feelings of motivation and inspiration with which he has received this new mandate.
Aloysius John said that it is with a spirit of service and humility that he takes on this assignment.
He said Caritas has been entrusted by the Church “to help the poor and the needy to become autonomous – recognizing their place in society, in the image of God”.
Of course with a large and complex confederation like Caritas Internationalis, with its 160 members who work in almost every country of the world, vision, fore-planning and strategy are of utmost importance.
Inspired by Catholic faith, Caritas describes itself as the helping hand of the Church, reaching out to the poor, vulnerable and excluded, regardless of race or religion, to build a world based on justice and fraternal love. It carries out its mission with short and long term relief and development programmes and when a crisis hits, it is already on the ground thanks to a capillary network that includes small groups of volunteers to some of the biggest global charities.
So, John explained, his mission is to work with efficiency in order “to help the poor have the best in society”.
The Gospel is our programme
Addressing Caritas members during the just ended General Assembly, Pope Francis said the Gospel must be their programme.
“The Gospel is our programme”, John said, “and if I look at the parable of the Good Samaritan it inspires me.”
His example of compassion, he added, his attention, care for the wounded, the way he was able to get down to his level to carry him and take him to the inn to receive the care he was in need of shows us with what spirit we must conduct our work.
“This is the parable that guides me. We should be compassionate towards the poor, love them and care for them, listen to them and defend their rights,” he said.
Aloysius John said his first challenge on the job will be to make sure the Caritas family is working for a common vision and then respond effectively and efficiently to the needs of the people.
This, he said, means capacitating the people who are going to support those in need.
And then, he continued, we need to focus on finances and on how to receive funding from solidarity; how to animate solidarity and empower others to become co-responsible in responding to the needs of victims of disasters, conflict and poverty.
Mobilizing the process at different levels
The new Secretary General also spoke of the need to make sure this process is mobilized on different levels.
“For example at a parish level, in Christian communities - by helping people learn how to help in situations of emergency,” he said.
And of course at a diocesan level and at the national level by lobbying political leaders and involving the international community.
During the General Assembly it was agreed that a top priority lies in the review of a strategic framework for Caritas as it faces the urgent need for a change in the model of development in the face of climate change.