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One table for all

· The Pope recalls that God will judge the powers of the earthover their stewardship and launches a new appeal for Christian victims of intolerable injustices ·

More than 300 representatives of “Caritas Internationalis” from all over the world gathered in Rome for the 20th General Assembly. To invoke the help of the Holy Spirit they participated in the Eucharistic celebration presided by the Holy Father in the Vatican Basilica, on Tuesday afternoon, 12 May. Among the concelebrants, was Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, President of the Organization, Cardinal Etchegaray, Cardinal Müller, Cardinal Turkson, Cardinal Vegliò, Cardinal Lacunza Maestrojuan, Furtado, Cardinal Monteiro de Castro; 72 bishops, including Bishop Silota, second vice president of Caritas Internationalis; over a hundred priests, including Don Ntakobajira Cibambo, ecclesiastical assistant, and Msgr Dal Toso, Secretary of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. Among those present, the Archbishop Becciu, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, and Msgr Bettencourt, Head of Protocol, and Wisdom, Regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household. The following is a translation of the Pope’s address, which was given in Italian.

The Reading from the Acts of the Apostles that we have just heard (16: 22-34) presents a rather special character. It is the jailer of the prison in Philippi, where Paul and Silas were locked up after an uprising of the crowd against them. The magistrates first have them beaten and then send them to prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. This is why that man, during the night, felt the earthquake and seeing the prison doors open, despairs and considers killing himself. But Paul reassures him and he, trembling and full of wonder, kneels in supplication for salvation.

The narrative tells us that at once that man takes the essential steps of the path of faith and salvation: he listens to the Word of the Lord, together with his household; he washes the wounds of Paul and Silas; he receives Baptism, with all his family; and lastly welcomes Paul and Silas into his house, prepares the table and sets food before them, rejoicing. The entire path of faith.

The Gospel, proclaimed and believed, urges one to wash the feet and wounds of the suffering and to prepare the table for them. The simplicity of gestures, in which receiving the Word and the Sacrament of Baptism accompanies the welcoming of one’s brother, which is treated as a single act: welcoming God and welcoming another; welcoming others with the grace of God; welcoming God and making Him manifest in service to one’s brother. Word, Sacraments and service each evoke and enrich the another, as previously seen in these witnesses of the early Church.

We can see in this gesture the entire call of Caritas. Caritas is now a great Confederation, widely recognized also in the world for its accomplishments. Caritas is the Church in many parts of the world, and must also spread even more in the various parishes and communities, to renew what took place in the early times of the Church. Indeed the root of all your service actually lies in the simple and obedient welcoming of God and neighbour. This is the root. Should this root be removed, Caritas would die. This welcoming is accomplished within you personally, because you then go into the world, and there you serve in the name of Christ whom you have met and whom you meet in every brother and sister to whom you draw near. For this very reason it avoids being reduced to a simple humanitarian organization. The Caritas of each particular Church, even the smallest, is the same: there is no such thing as large Caritas and small Caritas, they are all equal. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to understand the true dimension of Caritas; the grace to avoid falling into the mistaken belief that a well organized centralism is the way; the grace to understand that Caritas is always at the periphery, in each particular Church; and the grace to believe that Caritas Central is just help, service and the experience of communion but not the headquarters of the rest.

One who lives the Caritas mission is not a simple worker but indeed a witness to Christ. A person who seeks Christ and allows himself be sought by Christ; a person who loves with the spirit of Christ, the spirit of giving freely, the spirit of giving. All of our strategies and planning stand empty if we do not bear this love within us. Not our love, but his. Or better yet, our love purified and strengthened by his.

This is how one can serve all and prepare the table for all. This too is a beautiful image that the Word of God offers us today: preparing the table. God prepares the table of the Eucharist for us, even now. Caritas prepares many tables for those who are hungry. In these months you have carried out the great campaign “One Human Family, Food For All”. So many people even today hope to have enough to eat. The planet has food for all, but the will to share with everyone seems to be lacking. To prepare the table for all, and to ask that there be one table for all. Doing whatever we can so that everyone has food, but also reminding the world’s powerful that God will call them to be judged one day, and it will be demonstrated whether they truly tried to provide food for Him in each person (cf. Mt 25:35) and whether they acted in order that the environment not be destroyed but could produce this food.

In considering the table of the Eucharist, we cannot forget those of our Christian brothers and sisters who through violence have been deprived both of food for their bodies and for their souls: they have been pushed from their houses and from their churches, at times destroyed. I renew the appeal that these people and these intolerable injustices not be forgotten.

Together with so many other charitable Church organizations, Caritas thus reveals the power of Christian love and the desire of the Church to meet Jesus in each person, especially when he/she is poor or suffering. This is the journey we have before us and with this horizon I hope that you may carry out the works of these times. Let us entrust them to the Virgin Mary, who made welcoming God and neighbour the fundamental criterion of her life. Tomorrow we will celebrate Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared to proclaim victory over evil. With such great support we are not afraid to continue our mission. So be it.

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