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Shukri Rushiti Hanifi and his daughter outside a shelter in the Albanian part of Mirtovica. Credits: Xavier Schwebel/Secours Catholique

Shukri Rushiti Hanifi and his daughter outside a shelter in the Albanian part of Mirtovica. Credits: Xavier Schwebel/Secours Catholique

Caritas believes it is scandalous that eighty million people live below the poverty line in Europe, a quarter of them children.

So, while the MDGs are stepping stones, striving to halve poverty in the developing world, Caritas Europa launched the “Zero Poverty” campaign to end poverty full stop as a starting point for all humanity. I t is an urgent demand. Across Europe, Caritas members said more people were asking for their services. On St Valentine’s Day, Pope Benedict XVI visited Caritas Rome’s Don Luigi di Liegro shelter, describing it as “something concrete that allows the light of God to enter the lives of the whole community.”

Don Luigi was the founder of both Caritas Rome and the shelter, and he believed that handing out food and clothes wasn’t enough: society must look into itself to see where it had failed people. This philosophy is very much in line with the “Zero Poverty” campaign, which challenges governments to fight the root causes of poverty and recognise the immense damage it inflicts on human dignity.

Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga took the campaign message to the European Congress on Poverty and Social Exclusion in Madrid, urging delegates to look behind the statistics to find the human face of poverty. More than 135,000 people signed the “Petition Against Poverty” launched by Caritas Europa. Shukri Rushiti Hanifi and his daughter outside a shelter in the Albanian part of Mirtovica. Xavier Schwebel for Secours Catholique