Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s confederation of charitable and development agencies, will become more accountable to the Vatican under new guidelines published May 2.
Monsignor Osvaldo Neves de Almeida, an official with the Vatican Secretariat of State, said in the official explanatory note for the rules that the Holy See will follow Caritas’ activity and exercise vigilance over it so that “both its humanitarian and charitable action and the content of the documents that it disseminates may be in harmony with the Apostolic See and with the Church’s Magisterium.”
The new statutes and rules, set out in today’s “General Decree,” will enable the Vatican to increase its oversight of the operations, finances and staffing of Caritas. Senior officials in the organization will also have to promise loyalty to the teachings of the Church.
The overhaul was prompted by fears that the charitable body was losing its Catholic identity, a concern repeatedly expressed at the confederation’s General Assembly in Rome last May by several high-ranking Vatican figures, including Pope Benedict XVI.
“On that occasion, the Holy Father recalled that Caritas Internationalis cannot be assimilated into the major Non-Governmental Organizations, even though it carries out with exemplary professionalism and competence, roles that they too fulfill,” said Msgr. Neves.
The Vatican also did not approve a second term for then-Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight. She was replaced by the Frenchman, Michel Roy, at the 2011 General Assembly.
Up until now, Caritas has been governed by norms set out in Pope John Paul II’s 2004 document “Durante l’Ultima Cena” (At the Last Supper).
Today’s new statutes are seen as clarifying the legal framework under which the confederation operates.
The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which oversees the work of Caritas, will now be responsible for approving texts issued by the charity that have “doctrinal or moral content.” Cor Unum will also have a say in any agreements struck between Caritas and other non-governmental organizations.
The new guidelines also change the selection process for Caritas’ executive board. Three of those board members will now be directly appointed by the Pope “in order to underline the close bond between the organization in question and the Successor of Peter.” The majority of the board members, however, will continue to be nominated by national Caritas agencies.
Until the charity’s next general assembly, Pope Benedict has appointed Bishop Bernard Hebda of Gaylord, Texas; Archbishop Paul Yembuardo Ouédrago of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso; and the Maronite Archbishop Youssef Antoine Soueif of Cyprus as members of the executive board.
Cor Unum will also have the ability to appoint an “ecclesiastical assistant” to Caritas whose job it will be to “promote its Catholic identity.”
Meanwhile, the Holy See will be able to veto candidates for the post of Caritas Treasurer “given that this office has a fundamental role in preserving the rights of the Member Organizations and, up to some extent, also of the Holy See.” At present, the Holy See veto only applies to the posts of President and Secretary-General.
Finally, a “Support Commission” composed of three experts will be convened to make sure that the new statutes are being implemented by Caritas.