Tagle: Changes at Caritas International call for humility, discernment

Not about financial mismanagement, sexual abuse
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle speaks before the delegates of the general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Thailand on October 29.

Pope Francis’s decision to relaunch Caritas Internationalis and its services was meant to be a process of “humility” and “discernment,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said, not about financial concern or sexual abuse.

The cardinal, who is now president emeritus of the global confederation of Catholic charities, explained that the move came after a “careful and independent study” of the governance and working environment of the agency.

“I would like to assure you that this is not, this is not, this is not about sexual harassment or sexual abuse. This is not about, again, mismanagement of money…the decree clearly stated the intention,” Tagle added.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD) had earlier commissioned a review of the workplace environment of Caritas general secretariat.

Current and former Caritas Internationalis employees were heard by the Commission, and “no evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety.”

The changes, however, were deemed necessary to review Caritas norms and procedures.

Other important themes and areas for urgent attention emerged from the panel’s work.

“Real deficiencies” were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.

“This is a call for walking humbly with God and a process of discernment, confronting our unfreedoms and following the spirit of freedom, [and] at the same time, the walking together of different cultures in their unique expressions of humanity,” Tagle told Vatican News.

Saying that acknowledging the decision “might be disturbing or confusing to some of you,” he assured that its intention is for the further betterment of Caritas.

In a new decree released on November 22, Pope Francis has placed Caritas management under temporary administration, in order to improve its internal procedures and better serve its charitable organizations worldwide.

The decree came even while financial matters have been well-handled and fundraising goals regularly achieved.

This means that the roles of president, vice presidents, general secretary and ecclesiastical assistant, as well as all the other current of governance, ceased.

The decree was read by Tagle himself during the confederation’s plenary meetings in Rome on Tuesday.

The Filipino cardinal had served as the organization’s president since May 2015 and was reelected for a second and last term in May 2019.

The elections for Caritas’s new leadership would take place during its May 2023 assembly as scheduled.

For its preparation, Tagle will support the temporary administration and will liaise with local churches and the member organizations of Caritas.

The decree also stated that the measure “has no impact on the functioning of member organizations and the services of charity and solidarity they provide around the world.”

Pope appoints temporary administrator

The Holy Father appointed Pier Francesco Pinelli as Temporary Administrator of Caritas Internationalis, effective on November 22.

Pinelli is a well-known organizational consultant and administrator. He will be supported by Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar, current head of advocacy for Caritas, and by Fr. Manuel Morujão, SJ, for the personal and spiritual accompaniment of the staff.

On the contrary, it is intended serve to strengthen such service, Caritas said.

Pinelli and Alonso will manage Caritas’s operations and provide stability and empathetic leadership.

They will work to complete the candidate nomination and election process as described in the organization’s Statutes. Caritas will hold the next regular in-person general assembly of its member organizations, including the election of the President, General Secretary and the Treasurer.

“In recent years we have seen the needs of the many whom Caritas serves increase markedly, and it is imperative that Caritas Internationalis be well prepared to meet these challenges,” said Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ, Prefect of the DPIHD.

“Pope Francis invites us to consider ‘the mission that Caritas is called to carry out in the Church… Charity is not a barren service nor a simple offering to be made in order to ease our conscience,’” Czerny said.

Informed by the evaluation and motivated to help bring the Roman office up to a standard commensurate with Caritas’s mission, the DPIHD will continue to exercise its “competence” in favor of Caritas Internationalis, encouraging the resolution of the issues elucidated in the review.

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The mission of the member organizations is to work to build a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed.

Caritas Internationalis, the headquarters of the federation of Caritas organizations, is incorporated in the Holy See and is supervised by the DPIHD.

Image credits: Roy Lagarde


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