By Michelle Hough, communications officer with Caritas Internationalis
Our Cardinal is a busy man. Last week he was in Canada, next week he’ll be in New Zealand and Australia, but this week he’s up at the Vatican coordinating Pope Francis’s “council of cardinals” on Vatican reform.
I’m of course talking about Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis. Yesterday, I went to meet him at Santa Marta, the residence where Pope Francis lives behind St Peter’s basilica, to film a message for Caritas’ hunger campaign: One human family, food for all.
Wednesday morning is not a good time to try and get into the Vatican. Pope Francis holds an audience with pilgrims at 10am in St Peter’s square. Driving up via della Conciliazione (the broad avenue leading up to the square) at 9.45am with campaign coordinator, Alfonso Apicella and filmmaker Stephen Natanson, I had to contend with tens of thousands of pilgrims and Rome’s fierce traffic police.
As we pulled up outside Santa Marta, I was really hoping we could see Pope Francis before he left for his audience but he’d already gone. Pope Francis, like Cardinal Rodriguez, is always busy. I can’t even keep track of all he’s said and done in the seven months since his election because he never rests.
Tracking down the Cardinal can be tricky. He doesn’t have a secretary (although someone once told me his sister sometimes helps him) or an entourage of any sort. He answers his own phone and email. He’s not only the head of Caritas, but also the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, coordinator of the Pope’s commission, as I said earlier, a member of numerous other commissions and an active member of the Salesians.Cardinal Rodriguez arrived promptly at 10.30am for filming. What always amazes me is how humble and down-to-earth he is. He arrives, says ‘tell me what I need to do’ and gets on with the job.
I’d provided a chair for the Cardinal to sit on while he recorded his message but he said that he’d rather stand, explaining “You can’t have a Church that is sitting down!”
The Cardinal’s message will be part of the launch of the Caritas confederation’s hunger campaign on 10th December. This is World Human Rights day and Caritas is urging governments and people of good will to put their energies behind implementing the right to food in national law.
“As Caritas we are one human family and we cannot let one member of that family go hungry,” said Cardinal Rodriguez in his message.
“There is enough food to feed the planet. We believe that with your help, we can end hunger by 2025.”
After he’d recorded his message, Cardinal Rodriguez spoke to me about the message Pope Francis will give to support our campaign. We’re hoping that the word will spread and that many other people will find some time in their busy lives to do something to contribute our campaign to end hunger.
It’s a question of whether you want to live in a world where there’s enough food for everyone and yet children, women and men still die because of a lack of nutritious food, or not. The Pope and the Cardinal can find time, can you?