Caritas head says Encyclical obliges charity

Caritas Australia director Jack De Groot that the second half of Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical Deus Caritas Est makes it clear that charitable activity for Catholics is not an optional extra.

Speaking on ABC Radio National's Religion Report yesterday Mr De Groot said: "There's a clear message here that being a church of service is constitutive of being a Christian today, and there's no optional extras about charitable activity."

Moreover the Holy Father prescribes charity not just for Catholics, but for all humankind.

"It's not for the chosen. This big and profound Christian charity is an outreach to the whole world, irrespective of religious tradition, gender, even politics," he said. "Anything that has a hidden agenda in the charitable activity is something that he denounces quite clearly, so even putting front and centre a concern about proselytization being the agenda for doing charitable work he says, is unacceptable."

Caritas Australia is the aid and development agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops. Mr De Groot's statements were made in the context of a discussion that also included censured moral theologian Charles E. Curran, and Rocco Palmmo, a blogger based in Philadelphia in the US who also writes for the London Tablet.

He added that the Pope made it clear that charity is part of the Christian identity, and that it is not a means towards the end of prosletysation or evangelisation.

"[It] will be a very reassuring message, particularly in this day and age of the dialogue, and what has been at times a huge debate between people, about Islam and about the engagement of Christian societies back into Islamic countries. So to actually say it clearly - you cannot go into any community with the agenda of proselytisation under the cover of charity - is a very important message not only to Europe but very clearly to many developing countries."

The full discussion is available as a transcript or an audio file (link below).

Benedict Genius Est (ABC Radio The Religion Report 1/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
English Text of Encyclical
Deus Caritas Est on Wikipedia
Caritas Australia

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2 Feb 2006