Caritas Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight, the first woman to hold that position, bid farewell May 27 to the Caritas community at its general assembly in Rome. Knight had just finished to four-year term and was expected to be reappointed, but her candidacy for the position was waved off by the curia, much to the consternation of the Caritas board. Long-standing tension between Caritas and Cor Unum, which oversees relief and development work for the Vatican, appear to have been behind the decision not to reappoint the well-regarded administrator. (Our Austen Ivereigh wrote recently: "Knight—together with the rest of Caritas leadership—stands accused in some Vatican quarters of being too independent of the Curia, too much like secular nongovernmental organizations and too inattentive to the presumably more traditional sensibilities of member organizations in the developing world.")
She says in parting:
My wish for Caritas would be that you continue that journey—united in minds and hearts. I have no doubt that we have been on the right road; and I hope that Caritas will:
Continue to be a powerful and authentic voice of the poor and ensure that their voices are heard in international debates on climate change, migration, health, food security and chronic poverty.
Continue to reach out and embrace the wider humanitarian community. Collaborate with other faith-based and secular organisations that share our values. There is much we can contribute – and much we can learn.
And finally, continue to work towards a more equitable balance between women and men in the leadership of Caritas organisations. We should not forget that lay women make up a huge proportion of Caritas workers. They deserve respect and recognition. My appointment as the first woman Secretary General in 2007 was a courageous step. You know that we can do the job – only fear, misogyny and prejudice stand in your way.
Knight also had some encouraging words, I think, for incoming General Secretary Michel Roy:
I hand the reins over to you with affection. You will be in my prayers, for I know you have some substantial challenges ahead. You will need the courage of a lion; the skin of a rhinoceros; the wisdom of an owl; and the patience of a polar bear. And I don’t know if there is an animal with eyes in the back of its head, but that could also be very useful!
Read the rest of her farewell address at Independent Catholic News.