Vatican City (Fides Service) - "The Church does not limit herself to providing for the material needs of those in difficulty; her charitable work consists not only in building structures... it strives to meet the most hidden existential demands". Pope John Paul II said this when he addressed on 21 November il 21 members of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", meeting in the Vatican for their 25th plenary assembly 20 to 22 November in the Old Synod Hall. At the end of the assembly the Pontifical Council issued a statement summarising the main questions discussed by the participants.
A poignant question was posed in a moving talk by Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi from Cameroon who said: "Colonisation of Africa lasted because foreign sovereignty prevented proper education of the local people: the first schools were in fact built by missionaries. Why is it still easier today to dig a well than build a school? The development of people not things is what is needed!".
This priority is affirmed by international aid organisations and Caritas network and by Bishops in poor countries, the first to be responsible for projects realised with the approval and support of local church authorities in their dioceses.
As a consequence of the priority for the formation of the human person, the Conference launched a closing appeal presented by Peter Weiderud, Head of international affairs of the World Council of Churches: "Let us give our charity work a prospective which goes beyond the humanitarian emergency and leads to the ‘education’ of the poor! Let us train our workers to involve more the local people! This will facilitate communication of the faith, the aim of all our activity.".
During the three days while discussing various aspects of solidarity, anthropological, cultural, technical-political and interreligious, the participants emphasised the relation between charity work and the religious dimension of charity. They agreed on the danger of a sort of "nominalism", which uses Christian terms but empties them of their essential faith content.
The necessity for ever closer collaboration with international charity organisations, national Caritas offices, bishops and the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" was affirmed at the end of the plenary closed by Archbishop Mons. Paul Josef Cordes, President of "Cor Unum": "This will allow our realities which serve millions of poor people in the world every day, to make ever more visible the love of God which, as with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, reaches every person with the smallest of actions". (S.L.) (Fides Service 27/11/2003 – lines 33; words 414)