Pope on charity: Work for and with the people you are serving
By Robin Gomes
According to Pope Francis, any work of charity should be well inserted among the people it intends to serve, and those who initiate it should not think themselves indispensable.
He offered the advice to a delegation from the Marcello Candia Foundation based in Milan, Italy, which he received on Friday in the Vatican.
The non-profit Foundation, marking its 40th anniversary this year, was started by Venerable Marcello Candia, an Italian industrialist and lay missionary who sold his father’s chemical business to support the needy in Brazil. Today, the Marcello Candia Foundation mainly promotes initiatives in favour of people with Hansen's disease or leprosy, children, the sick and other needy people in Brazil, with particular reference to the Amazon Region but also in various other poor areas of the country. The funds raised are allocated to the various initiatives and sent directly to those responsible for each individual work.
Candia is now a Venerable, on the road to sainthood, with his virtues recognized as heroic.
Pope Francis thanked the delegation for their commitment and initiatives, especially for their method and style which Pope St Paul VI suggested to Candia. He said his predecessor's suggestions can benefit all those who run similar works.
For the people, by the people
First of all, Pope Paul VI suggested that if Candia built a hospital in Brazil, it should be Brazilian, not Italian. Charity, Pope Francis pointed out, must be well inserted in the local reality, involving the local people, even if Candia may have put a little Milanese style into it.
Underscoring the importance of inculturation, Pope Francis said, “Assume the culture of the place where we go to work.”
Paul VI also asked him to keep clear of “any kind of paternalism”. “Don’t impose your ideas on others, even with good intentions,” he told the entrepreneur who was used to making decisions himself. So, he had to learn to steer things in another way.
"Make the hospital not only for Brazilians but with Brazilians," Pope Paul VI told him. Pope Francis said, “This is important, it is a general rule of charity: work with the people you are serving.”
Don’t make yourself indispensable
"Make it your ultimate goal not to be needed anymore," the saintly pope told Candia.
Pope Francis said this is wise advice, lamenting that many times, even in the Church, there are valuable people, priests and bishops who believe that the history of salvation passes from them, that they are necessary.
“When you realize that the hospital is running on its own, ‘you will have done a real work of human solidarity’," he added.
Pope Francis explained, "Do not tie people and works to yourself, do not make yourself indispensable, but on the contrary, train your co-workers and ensure stability and continuity.”
The Holy Father commended the Foundation for its efforts to follow this path, not running the works supporting local communities and missionaries in their initiatives with the sick, lepers and people in various situations of need.
He also commended that the Foundation's maintenance costs are minimal, almost all of it goes to its initiatives in Brazil.
Pope Francis noted that there are organizations and associations that carry out good works but they spend half or 60 percent on salaries alone, a charitable model he discouraged.
“Keep to minimum costs, so that most of the money goes to the people," the Pope urged.