Caritas: leading the fight against poverty for the past 70 years
By Vatican News staff writer
Seven Decades of Fighting Poverty and Protecting Human Dignity is the title of the first of seven online conference held by Caritas Internationalis on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. The conference, which took place on Thursday 28 October, focused on the work of Caritas in North America.
Prior to the conference, a press statement by Caritas Internationalis explained that seven online conferences will be held leading up to its anniversary on 12 December. The Confederation is made up of 162 Caritas organisations so the seven conferences will be dedicated to the seven regions where the Confederation operates: Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Oceania.
Today's online conference focused on North America, which is "home to three of the Confederation's longest-running member organisations: Catholic Relief Service (CRS), Catholic Charities USA, and Development and Peace - Caritas Canada".
Living in mercy
“This 70th anniversary,” said Caritas Internationalis Secretary General, Aloysius John, “is an occasion to celebrate 7 decades of work for the poor".
He described the global network of Caritas offices as an instrument "to serve and accompany the most vulnerable ensuring them a dignified life,” which is what Pope Francis is asking.
He noted the long-term objective of creating the conditions for lasting development and sustainability and said the Church’s “preferential option for the poor leads us to live in mercy.”
Together with the international community and society at large, John said, "We need to help each other to build together a community capable of promoting integral development."
The pandemic, he said, has highlighted this need and challenges us "globalize solidarity through faith."
Close to the poor and the most vulnerable
During the conference it was highlighted that North America is home to three of the oldest organizations that form part of the Caritas Confederation: Catholic Relief Service (CRS) that was founded in 1943 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and provides assistance to 130 million people in more than 110 countries and territories; Catholic Charities USA, that was founded in 1910 and is a network of charities serving the poor, particularly in the areas of housing, care for migrants and refugees; Development and Peace - Caritas Canada, that was in 1967 and is a democratic movement of international solidarity committed to finding alternatives to unjust social, political and economic structures.
Commitment in the U.S. and around the world
Kim Pozniak of CRS said the organization looks beyond the United States to a globalized world.
She noted that thanks to the projects promoted by CRS, one million and 200 thousand farmers have been assisted in various countries, that 10,000 young people have been helped to enter the world of work, and that 11,000 deaths due to malaria have been prevented.
In Central America, in particular, she added, thanks to CRS many farmers have been able to develop techniques that have allowed them to remain in their countries.
Pozniak recalled that Catholic Relief Service, together with local partners and the local Church, has brought aid to Haiti to more than 200,000 people, and a network of reception centers has been created for migrants.
Charitable works in the United States
Jean Beil, of Caritas North America, spoke of the dense network of projects that accompanies the works of solidarity of Catholic Charities USA in the United States.
She recalled that there are more than 500,000 homeless people in the US and explained that in recent months, Catholic Charities USA has responded with a series of initiatives to the crisis triggered by the pandemic.
Overall, in 2020, more than 15 million people received assistance thanks also to the 450 new food distribution sites were created. Many of these, he said, have been set up in parishes. Another important area in which Catholic Charities USA is involved, Beil said, is the assistance given to migrants and refugees.
Caritas Canada and young people
Another focus of the conference was on the work done for the younger generation. Rebecca Rathbone, of Development and Peace - Caritas Canada, stressed that a major area of commitment of this organization is related to working with young people in schools.
In particular, various projects have been launched to help young people to be socially and environmentally responsible. Specific programs have also been financed to train the new generations in crucial areas such as international cooperation.
These initiatives, Rathbone said, show that there is a willingness on the part of young people in North America to get involved in humanitarian projects. She also mentioned that financial aid has been provided through Caritas Canada to support projects in Lebanon.
After North America, a webinar on Europe
The first conference was a comprehensive look at the work of Caritas in the North American region. A commitment that reverberates particularly in the United States and Canada, but also in various countries around the world. The next Caritas Internationalis webinar is scheduled for 4 November. The focus will be on the work of Caritas in Europe.