Father Fred Kammer, SJ, director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute, was the moderator for the week-long General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis in Rome, Italy working under the assembly theme of One Human Family, Zero Poverty.
130 Caritas member organizations from across the world sent representatives to their 19th General Assembly from May 22nd to 27th to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the confederation. During the sessions chaired by Fr. Kammer, over 300 delegates elected their officers and agreed on a four-year “strategic framework” to strengthen their service working alongside and on behalf of the poor.
Caritas Internationalis was founded in 1951 by 13 Catholic charitable organizations, including Catholic Charities USA (then known as the National Conference of Catholic Charities), to better coordinate the Church’s humanitarian work. They received support in their founding from Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini, who would become Pope Paul VI in 1963.
The Caritas confederation has grown to 165 members comprising the humanitarian and social development arms of national bishops’ conferences worldwide. Caritas members support millions of poor people in improving their own lives with programs ranging from disaster risk reduction, relief and reconstruction, peace-building and reconciliation, climate mitigation and food security, primary health care, and education.
Father Kammer was the president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA from 1992 to 2001. In that capacity he was active in the international confederation and its Vice-President for the North America regional group consisting of Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, Development and Peace (Canada), and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras said, “Caritas Internationalis is immensely privileged to be at the heart of the Church and her life-giving cycle of love. We are celebrating 60 years of responding through our faith with practical action to human suffering in an unjust world.
“In the second decade of the 21st century, however, we face a series of challenges that threaten to halt or even reverse that progress. Hunger is increasing, the number of humanitarian emergencies is growing, and climate change will cause further harm.
“Caritas has a vision for our world as one human family where no one dies because of poverty and injustice. For this reason, over the coming years we will strive to fulfill that vision.”
During the General Assembly members reelected Cardinal Rodriguez as Caritas President for the next four years, elected Mr. Jürg Krummenacher, former head of Caritas Switzerland, as Treasurer, and Mr. Michel Roy of Secours Catholique of France as Secretary General.
Caritas members at the General Assembly heard from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, the Secretary of State to the Holy See, as presider at its opening Eucharist. During the week that followed the General Assembly was addressed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, outgoing Secretary-General Lesley-Anne Knight, and others. At the conclusion of the Assembly, members were received by Pope Benedict XVI at an audience at the Vatican on Friday, May 27th.
The General Assembly business guided by Fr. Kammer included presentations regarding the ongoing revisions of the confederation’s Statutes and Rules. This has been a multi-year process of various committees of Caritas, and for two years Fr. Kammer has been the moderator the meetings of the thirty-member Executive Committee as they have considered these revisions.