Caritas Internationalis general secretary Michel Roy

‘No doubt’ Caritas is Catholic

  • March 14, 2012

OTTAWA - The Catholic identity of Caritas Internationalis has “never been put into doubt” and the influence of the international federation of Catholic charities has continued to grow on the world stage, said general secretary Michel Roy.

“In this present globalized world it is important to carry the voices of the poorest that come up through the Caritas network to the right people in the international organizations,” Roy said during a recent visit to Ottawa. These organizations include UN organizations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Labour Organization, governments and various private sector actors.

Overall, Caritas represents Catholic charities operating in 164 countries.

Roy, who was elected last May at Caritas’ once-every-five-year General Assembly, replaced Lesley-Anne Knight, who was not granted a nihil obstat by Vatican officials to pursue a second term. Knight was highly regarded in the federation and this decision increased speculation in news reports the Vatican was pursuing stricter control over the charitable agency.

During the General Assembly, some cardinals stressed the importance of Catholic identity while addressing participants, leading some news reports to interpret the remarks as a call for Caritas to improve its Catholic identity. They also described an atmosphere of tension. Roy pointed out the renewal and transformation of Caritas had been in the works since 2004 and nothing has changed in the underlying direction of the federation. He pointed out that among the more than 360 people attending the General Assembly were more than 60 bishops and archbishops.

“Being an archbishop and listening to the teachings that were given which might have been understood as ‘you’re not Catholic enough’ was very strange,” said Roy. “I think there is no issue about the Catholic identity.”

Roy said the concern about Catholic identity and the new evangelization is a theme that has seized many dicasteries in the Vatican.

This thrust is not directed to the whole world but to the West, he said, and is directed at Catholics in highly secularized countries to encourage them to not let the Church go, he said. The Catholic Church in the West is reduced in numbers, and thus reduced in impact.

Without faith in God, what dominates a society is individualism and the consequence of that is loneliness, “which is a big factor in Northern countries,” Roy said. Materialism and selfishness go together.

Being Catholic means going against these trends and promoting relationships, community, life and social life, he said. It means creating an “innate enabling environment for everyone, especially the poorest, to grow, to become themselves, to be able to develop their talents.”

“That cannot be done alone,” he said. “It has to be done in community. In the family and then in the community.

“This is about Catholic identity. Knowing Caritas for a long time, I don’t think it has ever been in question,” said Roy, who has been with the organization for 30 years.

The Caritas network awaits final Holy See approval of statutes and structural changes that will bring it in line with the spirit of Pope John Paul II’s 2004 letter granting Caritas a special status in the Holy See with a “public juridical personality,” Roy said.

“We are waiting for the decree which will make it real,” he said, adding he hopes this will happen before the May meeting of the Representative Council in Rome.

Roy said Caritas’ thematic priorities for 2011-2015 include migration, climate change and food security, health, especially HIV/AIDS and pandemics such as malaria and TB, peace and reconciliation and the Millennium Development Goals.

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