Pope John Paul II Grants Canonical Legal Status to Caritas Internationalis
To my Venerated Brother
Msgr Youhanna Fouad El-Hage
Maronite Archbishop of Tripoli, Lebanon
President of Caritas Internationalis
1. During the Last Supper, on the eve of his Passion, the Lord Jesus made a specific request to his Apostles: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). Sustained by this mission, the Church has proclaimed the Gospel and bestowed the grace of the sacraments, always making sure to accompany its action with the witness of love.
Therefore, since the beginning, the life of the Christian community has been characterised by the active exercise of charity, expressed in particular through attention to the poor and vulnerable (see Acts 2:42-47). For almost two hundred years, diocesan and parish groups emerged and subsequently took on the name of Caritas, with the purpose of helping those in need. As time went by, they also began to organise themselves at national and international levels.
In the context of the Holy Year of 1950, my Venerated Predecessor, the Servant of God, Pope Pius XII, wished to create an organisation in Rome which, at the level of the universal Church, would bring together national charitable organisations authorised by their respective episcopates, with a view to fostering mutual knowledge, coordination and collaboration in carrying out charitable and social activities around the world. My other predecessors also took a paternal and active interest in the development of Caritas Internationalis.The Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, was therefore able to affirm with satisfaction that the organisation was "at work everywhere" (Encyclical Populorum progressio, 46).
2. Arising from the impetus given by this Apostolic See, which has subsequently followed and guided its activities, Caritas Internationalis consists of a Confederation of charitable organisations that are, in general, national Caritas. Without diminishing the due autonomy of these national Caritas, the Confederation promotes collaboration by carrying out tasks of animation, coordination and representation. Therefore, Caritas Internationalis, by its origin and nature, is closely linked to the Shepherds of the Church and, in particular, to Peter's Successor, who presides over universal charity (see Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Ep. ad Romanos, inscr.), and takes inspiration for its action from the Gospel and the tradition of the Church.
Since its establishment Caritas Internationalis has carried out many important initiativesvia the organisations that comprise it, achieving prestige and recognition, including from civil authorities.
3. Therefore, in acknowledgement of the ecclesial role performed by this well-deserving Confederation, and in acceptance of the request specifically submitted in this regard, pursuant to apostolic authority and the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant Caritas Internationalis public canonical legal status (see cann. 116-123 of the Code of Canon Law). I hereby ratify the Statutes and Rules of Caritas Internationalis, which should be interpreted in the light of the provisions laid down in this chirograph. Any amendment to said provisions, or any transfer of the headquarters of Caritas Internationalis, which are currently located in Rome, should be subject to my ratification.
Due to the special bond between Caritas Internationalis and the Apostolic See, the list of candidates for the offices of President and Secretary General of the Confederation should be submitted for approval by the Pope, before being officially proposed for a final vote by the General Assembly.
Furthermore, the Holy See, having obtained appropriate advice, shall appoint an Ecclesiastical Advisor who has the right to participate in the activities of the institutional bodies.
4. Pursuant to the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus(see art. 146§2), I hereby entrust responsibility for following and accompanying the activities of Caritas Internationalis, at both international and regional levels, to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. The Dicastery will thereby be duly informed of the Confederation's initiatives at various levels and shall have the right to participate in the meetings of its bodies, and meetings regarding coordination of the activities promoted by Caritas Internationalis. The said Pontifical Council will contribute to keeping alive the ecclesial spirit in the Confederation and, in particular, will make sure that the activities of its members, carried out under international coordination, are executed in collaboration with the local Churches concerned and their pastors. Finally, Caritas Internationalis shall submit the documents of orientation it intends to issue to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum before their publication.
5. Furthermore, regarding its activities at international level, especially those concerning international organisations and in parts of the world with particular problems, Caritas Internationalis shall refer to the Secretariat of State.
Regarding specific matters, Caritas Internationalis shall also act in collaboration with other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, in particular with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and the Pontifical Council for PastoralCare of Health workers, pursuant to their responsibilities as laid down in the Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus.
6. Whilst hoping that this deed will strengthen the bonds of communion between Caritas Internationalisand the universal Church, I bid that the provisions herein laid down shall be faithfully complied with. In entrusting the commitment and activities of the Confederation to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Visitation and Saint Martin de Porres, who are the Heavenly Patron Saints of the Confederation, I bestow on you, venerated Brother, and all the members of the Confederation, a special Apostolic Blessing.
Castel Gandolfo, 16 September 2004
IOANNES PAULUS II
New Statutes (en)
New Statutes (ita)
Decreto Generale (ita)