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Gerard O’ConnellMay 23, 2019

Caritas Internationalis, one of the largest aid and development organizations in the world, is holding its 21st general assembly in Rome, May 23 to 28. It is focusing on the theme “One Human Family, One Common Home” and aims to issue a strong call to its member organizations to work together to face the unprecedented scale of difficulties facing humanity in the 21st century, including the threat of climate change.

At a press briefing before the opening of the assembly, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who was elected president at the last general assembly four years ago and will be reconfirmed president for another term at this one, recalled that the work of Caritas is based on the teachings of the Gospel and of recent popes, the social doctrine of the church and the teaching and spirituality of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” published four years ago. He noted that the pope has given the work of Catholic charitable institutions new inspiration by making the plight of the poor a priority of his pontificate.

Michel Roy, the French-born secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, will finish his two-term mandate this year. He said this general assembly will include a review of a strategic framework for Caritas as it faces the “urgent need for a change in the model of development” to ensure the survival of humanity in a time of climate change.

He recalled that Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of some 160 national Catholic agencies, has traditionally sought to provide aid to peoples in crisis situations, like natural disasters, and to promote development through projects in countries in difficulty across the globe. But today, he noted, Caritas is increasingly being called to help with challenges provoked by climate change. “Our food production is at stake” as a result of the impact of climate change, he said, and humanitarian needs are growing.

Cardinal Tagle said the negative impact of climate change is evident today in the Philippines, which no longer experiences dependable dry and rainy seasons. He spoke about the dramatic changes in climate and the “ruptures” from life as it was experienced in the past. He noted that wealth is being created, but at the same time many people are becoming poorer and the middle class is shrinking.

People are getting angry, he said, and populist politicians are presenting themselves as “messiahs” and offering solutions that in the end do not resolve the fundamental challenges of poverty, the climate crisis and mass migration.

He said, “The sheer number of displaced people, the spread of conflict and the environmental disaster which is becoming more and more evident, together threaten to overwhelm us unless we urgently act together against these problems as one family with one home.”

In Caritas, he said, “we are driven by our collective belief that we are part of the one family, sharing one common home.” He recalled how its members come together every four years and underlined how this year the 450 delegates will engage in a process that seeks to map the road ahead for the organization.

The Philippine cardinal drew attention to the fact that a record number of delegates are participating in this year’s general assembly. They had come from 150 member organizations in as many countries worldwide, including for the first time from China and the United Arab Emirates.

They will sit around 50 tables and discuss how they can work together and not just as individual organizations. He noted that a number of governments provide funding to Caritas but said that some want to exert more direct control over how that aid is used. This makes it more difficult for those Caritas organizations to “work together with other member organizations.”

Maria Josè Alexander, the Mexican-born director of Caritas in Somalia and the youngest director of a national Caritas organization, emphasized the importance of young people and women having a great share in the organization’s decision-making bodies.

This year’s general assembly will elect a new secretary general, and all of the delegates will have a private audience with Pope Francis at the end of their work.

At an opening Mass for the assembly, Pope Francis said the charity of the Catholic Church must be born from prayer before “the fixed tabernacle” of Jesus in the Eucharist and the “mobile tabernacles” of Christ in the poor and needy.

Gathered at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis told representatives from the very large aid and development agencies, like Catholic Relief Services from the United States, and the very small agencies, like Caritas Bangladesh, that they must follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and avoid the temptation of “efficiencyism” and of “worshipping ourselves and our goodness.”

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JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

making the plight of the poor a priority of his pontificate

But yet the poor are disappearing from the world without any help from the Catholic Church. Seems to be contradiction here. All the authors and editors here at America, the magazine, should read Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling https://amzn.to/2SM5vTb

Judith Stadler
4 years ago

One of the best things Caritas organizations around the world could do to support Laudato Is and combat climate change would be to direct their financial managers to stop financing fossil fuels and direct their investments to clean energy (wind, solar, hydropower, advanced batteries).

Douglas Fang
4 years ago

The same set of "usual suspects" – there are a few commenters here seem to determine to deny climate changes regardless of any facts or arguments. The reality is that this is the greatest threat to the current stage of human society.

Just look at these stories:

1. The annual World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, Switzerland – the gathering of the most influential economic, business, and political elites and leaders around the world. These people give a damn about scientific reasoning as they are pragmatic ones and care the most about the bottom line of their wealth. For the last few years, the danger of climate change is the number one or second in their list of top concerns for the future of civilization.

2. The latest article from MarketWatch – https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-to-get-young-people-to-save-for-the-future-when-they-think-the-planet-is-doomed-2019-05-23?mod=mw_theo_homepage

“…many young people today think civilization may not exist when they’re of retirement age – due to climate change…”

The wise and powerful, the young and restless, the near absolute majority of the scientific community, … If you think you are smarter and know better than them… you may want to think again…

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

Do you read? I said poverty is disappearing from the world. Absolutely true. Mr Moore said food supplies have dramatically increased. Absolutely true. Mr Sharpe said nuclear energy is the only current feasible non fossil source of energy for the world. Absolutely true. So the “Usual Suspects” are promoting truth. Can the same be said about Caritas?

Douglas Fang
4 years ago

J – it seems that suddenly you use a single book as the gospel for “all is fine” argument. To be honest, I agree with much of the info in the book you referred to – “Factfulness: Ten reasons…:”
No matter how prestige the author is, he is not trained in the field of economy. Hans Rosling is a medical doctor, professor of international health and renowned public educator. This is a fact.

To be honest and rigorous on the topic of economy and business, we need to look at top-not and world-renowned economists such as Sir Angus Deaton – a Nobel Prize recipient in Economic in 2015 and a professor at Princeton University. He is the author of this widely popular book: “The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality”

Does its statement sound familiar to your book thesis: “...Life is better now than at almost any time in history. More people are richer and fewer people live in dire poverty. Lives are longer and parents no longer routinely watch a quarter of their children die...”

However, the fact is that the existing form of capitalism is running its course and if it is not modified or reinvented, it will bring about the end of current human civilization as we know it.

The same Sir Augus Deaton also wrote a report for National Academy of Science about mortality rates in America, which is dubbed – “The death of despair” -

Here is another critical report from the head of the largest hedge fund in the world which manage 100’s billions of assets for ultra-wealthy people: Ray Dalio.

Ray, who claimed that he became a capitalist at age 12 and later became a billionaire mostly because he knows how to play the capitalist game, now is saying about capitalism “I think that not reforming capitalism would be an existential threat to the US”

J – do you have anything to respond to Augus Deaton or Ray Dalio? – or you just stick to your narrow-minded, hardcore and delusional belief that capitalism is the savior of this world - due to your lack of knowledge, honesty, or courage in engaging in any serious conversation on this topic or any other topic as I’ve experienced discussing with you so far...

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

I have dozen's of books I could recommend and have over time. The Rosling one is just the most comprehensive one on the state of the world today. It doesn't say how we got here. Hans died almost 2 years ago and his work of 30 years is being kept up by his children. Rosling documents in other places country by country the growth in wealth and health over the last 200 years. What explain's it?
Have you read the books you recommend? Deaton pretty much agrees with my thesis so I don't know why you brought him up. Can you explain how inequality is bad? I would also keep away from the insults.

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

I recommend Factfulness because it documents the state of the world. See https://bit.ly/1S9BM3G for a blow by blow of the yearly increases over 200 years. Other books
Jonah Goldberg - The Suicide of the West
Deirdre McCloskey - The Bourgeois Virtues - several others
Niall Ferguson - Civilization - others
Thomas Sowell - Economic Facts and Fallacies 30 others
Ralph Raico - Industrial Revolution - video - several others

John Rysavy
4 years ago

A very famous former CEO of a company with multiple doctorates was being chided by a journalist as not having an “Economics” background. When pressed about his lack of “classical” training his response was simple-“I have read over 100 textbooks on the afore-mentioned topic.” You could have heard a pin drop....

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

"The bet was on, and it was over the fate of humanity. On one side was the Stanford biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. In his 1968 best seller, The Population Bomb, Ehrlich insisted that it was too late to prevent a doomsday apocalypse resulting from overpopulation. Resource shortages would cause hundreds of millions of starvation deaths within a decade. It was cold, hard math: The human population was growing exponentially; the food supply was not" You know the rest!

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

Like the “world ending in 12 years” thing, you’d have to have the social intelligence of a sea sponge to think it’s literal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But apparently a large percentage of Democrats believe this.

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
4 years ago

Out here they often say "Church helps the poor to remain poor and the rich to remain rich". This notion needs to be corrected with the right methods.

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

Free market capitalism is removing poverty from the world. 250 years ago it was 98%, now it is less than 10%. Read Factfulness. The link is above.

Gino Dalpiaz
4 years ago


Shades of Galileo Galilei! There we go again with the global warming thing. I wish Pope Francis would leave the science of global warming to the scientists, not to the theologians.

What arrogance has taken possession of us poor little creatures on this mortal coil, that can make us think that we little ants can change the weather on this huge planet. We forget that glowing star out there that we fondly call the SUN, which from time immemorial has been sending us its powerful rays, its warmth, its energy. We forget the powerful forces in the very belly of our magnificent planet, a planet we think we can tame. We’re acting like little gods.

The Global Warming people often confuse global warming or climate change with ecology. And they say: “Yea, look at India, look at China. How dirty their air and water are.” True, but that’s got nothing to do with global warming or climate change. That’s ecology. We all want clean water, clean air, clean lakes and rivers, unpolluted tomatoes, magnificent landscapes. Today, at least in the United States, we’ve never had such clean air and water and lakes. Our cars use fewer and fewer toxic ingredients. Even Great Britain’s Daily Mail for January 2, 2015, had this comforting headline: “Carbon dioxide emissions help tropical rainforests grow faster: Study shows trees absorb more greenhouse gas than expected.”

But that’s all ecology. In fact, let’s leave our children an even more beautiful and healthy planet than the one we inherited. But let’s not try to change the climate of this temperamental Planet Earth. Let’s enjoy and beautify this magnificent home lost among the trillions of other planets and stars. Ecology has nothing to do with global warming or climate change, which is the greatest scientific fraud ever perpetrated on mankind.

Stanley Kopacz
4 years ago

There is a basic fallacy being practiced by commenters here. That is the fallacy of mindless extrapolation. For instance, the deserts in the Sahara are blooming because they are tapping into underground ancient aquifers. But this is a limited resource and these enterprises will eventually collapse. The recent "500 year" drought in CA was weathered by tapping into aquifers. How long will this last? If the human population keeps rising exponentially, and energy usage per person increases, there will be an ultimate catastrophic crossover. There may be short term reprieves like the Green Revolution but, ultimately, the big one will arrive. Just keep doing what we're doing.
Let's look at one aspect of the myth of progress. Antibiotics were going to conquer bacteria forever. But thanks to part of the food production revolution, antibiotics are fed to animals. Now we have bacteria resistant to all antibiotics. Scarier are resistant fungi. No one saw this coming until it came.
One commenter says we're ants that can't change the environment. Ants are a big part of the environment, given their numbers. 2.6B years ago, cyanobacteria, much smaller than ants, produced enough oxygen to oxidize the methane atmosphere and cause a snowball earth.
Lot's of bad thinking in the comments section of America and no scientific thinking, when needed. Close it down.

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

When talking about “bad thinking.” Are you projecting?
I sat throug a long lecture on drought at my last Stanford reunion. The aquifers in the valley can be refilled but instead of using water from the winter snows to do this it let to run out to the ocean. Except for Hetch Hetchy. That is for San Francisco

Stanley Kopacz
4 years ago

You haven't addressed my main point.
It's very simple. Civilizations thrive until they collapse. Often, they collapse because they keep doing what worked and no longer does. Populations and civilizations grow exponentially until they deplete nonrenewable resources and then they collapse. But, of course, until that happens, everything is fine. But, right, we're different. In a way, we are. The science to foresee where we are headed is there. But ideological blindness prevents action.

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

"The bet was on, and it was over the fate of humanity. On one side was the Stanford biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. In his 1968 best seller, The Population Bomb, Ehrlich insisted that it was too late to prevent a doomsday apocalypse resulting from overpopulation. Resource shortages would cause hundreds of millions of starvation deaths within a decade. It was cold, hard math: The human population was growing exponentially; the food supply was not" You know the rest! Comment repeated from above.

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

I nearly always address your point when it’s not a rant. Western Europe is collapsing. It is not due to resources. I can give you things to read. My guess is you won’t. But try The Suicide of the West By Jonah Goldberg and The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray. I also maintain the United States is over. It is just the end game that is in question. It’s been playing out for about 30 years. Absolutely nothing to do with physical resources.

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

Talks about what cause civilizations to fall. Nothing to do with resources. Great quote - The last time a world empire fell apart, it was about 1500 years ago. Then, the empire was Roman…. … What led the Barbarians walk over Rome is something that won’t take you a second to sympathize with. The taxes were too high, to pay for the army that was losing all the battles, and a bunch of freeloaders in government, and of course, and to pay for thousands of civil servants.
Sound familiar.

JR Cosgrove
4 years ago

So civilizations collapse for just the opposite of what you said. They stop doing what made them great.

Read Ibn Khaldun and his analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations. It has more to due to lost of cohesion than anything. What he termed “asabiyya,” Is there much cohesion left in the United States? Sound familiar? Khaldun is probably one of the 10 smartest persons to ever live.

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