VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Catholic aid agencies
must offer their workers continual spiritual formation so those in need
can witness God’s merciful love, Pope Benedict XVI said.
While professional training and technical expertise are
important, a "formation of the heart" is indispensable for those who
work for church-based charities, he told members of the Pontifical
Council Cor Unum in a February 29 audience.
The kind of help the church offers humanity "must never be
reduced to mere philanthropy, but must be a tangible expression of
evangelical love," he said.
Cor Unum, the Vatican agency that promotes and coordinates
Catholic charitable giving, held its plenary assembly in Rome and
focused on the theme of "Human and Spiritual Qualities of People Who
Work in the Church’s Charitable Organisations."
At the papal audience, the council’s president, Cardinal Paul
Cordes, thanked the pope for his 2005 encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est"
("God Is Love"), which he said "represents a milestone for Catholic
Dedicating oneself to helping others "is a unique occasion for human and also spiritual growth," the cardinal said.
The Pope said he wanted to dedicate the first encyclical of his
pontificate to the theme of charity, which he said is "valuable for the
It is through its charitable activity that the church
concretely makes itself present to all those who suffer or find
themselves in difficulty, he said.
"Charitable activity occupies a central position in the
evangelizing mission of the church," Pope Benedict said. "We must not
forget that works of charity represent a key opportunity for meeting
people who do not yet know Christ or who have only partial knowledge of
him," he said.
That is why church-based charities should be concerned with
their workers’ "human, professional and theological-spiritual
formation," he said.
"Those who work in the church’s many forms of charitable
activity cannot then content themselves with just offering technical
help or solving practical problems and difficulties," the pope said.
When people are suffering or in pain, they need to be met with
a loving, merciful approach, he said. Close spiritual formation helps
workers take on the "same feelings of merciful love that God has for
every human being," he said.
The Pope said he was pleased that Cor Unum was holding a
spiritual retreat in Guadalajara, Mexico, in June for the heads of
Catholic charities in the Americas.
"This will serve to fully recover the human and Christian
dimension" of their work, he said, adding that he hoped other regions
would hold similar retreats in the future.