60 years of service to the poor
23 July 2012
Caritas Internationalis marked its 60th anniversary in 2011. With a million staff and volunteers providing humanitarian relief, integral human development and peacebuilding, Caritas is today at the heart of the Church’s mission, a sign of God’s love for humanity in Jesus Christ.
60th anniversary of Caritas providing help
The first national Caritas organisation was launched in Germany in 1897, quickly followed by ones in Switzerland and Austria.
The First World War showed that Catholic agencies needed to cooperate more at an international level and the further impact of World War II sowed the seeds that would become Caritas Internationalis. Cities had been destroyed, countries torn apart and refugees were wandering the world looking for a home. The Church’s answer to this was Caritas Internationalis, ‘love between nations’.
The confederation was founded in 1951 by 13 Catholic charities so they could share knowledge and experience and support each other both in times of disasters and in the response to poverty. They received support from Msgr Giovanni Battista Montini, who would become Pope Paul VI in 1963.
Msgr Georg Hüssler, a former president of Caritas Internationalis, said, “ The idea was to structure the Church’s social activities in every country to create a national Caritas and then to have it join Caritas Internationalis. This way, Caritas Internationalis became a highly federal organisation covering the whole world.”
The Caritas confederation has since grown to over 160 members comprising the humanitarian and development arms of national bishops’ conferences.
Over the past six decades the world has seen incredible changes. Communism has fallen and computers have transformed the way we work and live. Desperate poverty has, in many countries, been turned into affluence. Hunger and poverty are much diminished.
Yet this affluence has not been distributed equally. Children are still dying of hunger in a world where there is enough food. There are 1200 billionaires today. But, the world’s bottom billion people live without access to adequate healthcare and education.
Many countries still struggle with poverty and injustice. There is much left to do for Caritas and its supporters in creating ‘One Human Family, Zero Poverty’.