Encounter of the Pontifical Council for Latin America with Aid to the Church in Need, Jun 2023 (archive photo) 

By Christopher Wells

Mar 6 2024

Pope Francis encourages aid organizations operating in Latin America to embrace the Cross and unite themselves to Jesus’ mission of concretely assisting those in need.

How can we reconcile the idea of giving while expecting nothing in return with the desire to see the results of our efforts when we engage in charitable works, Pope Francis wondered on Monday.

The Holy Father sent a message to a meeting sponsored by CELAM and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development that aims to foster solidarity and synodal cooperation between aid agencies and institutions working in Latin America. Representatives of the groups are meeting this week in Bogota, Colombia.

Pope Francis dedicated his message to a reflection on “gratuitousness,” starting with the journalistic questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.

God at the centre

The Pope made it clear that God is at the heart of giving. It is God who gives, said the Pope, while we are only stewards of His gifts; and He gives us all that we have.

By recognizing the gratuitousness of God’s gift, we avoid becoming slaves to money, relying on false economic security, focused on administrative efficiency and control.

“A turning point in our reflection,” the Pope said, involves realizing that God gives Himself in the midst of His people.

It is necessary, he continued, to reach out to those who “walk blindly, who fall by the wayside, those covered in leprosy of misery,” asking the Lord to help us see “what prevents them from facing their own difficulties.”

Pope Francis emphasized that God gives Himself to His people “always and totally,” setting no limits on his love and forgiveness.

The Pope insisted that gratuitousness, for us, means imitating “Jesus’ way of giving Himself for us, His people, always and totally, in spite of our poverty. And why? Out of love.”

Embracing the Cross

This, the Pope explained, is why we should not be overly focused on the results of our charity. “By giving ourselves in this way, we imitate Jesus, who gave Himself to save us all,” he said.

“To embrace the Cross is not a sign of failure, it is not a work in vain, it is to unite ourselves to the mission of Jesus… to touch concretely the wound of that brother, of that community, which has a name, which has an infinite value to God, to give him light, to strengthen his legs, to cleanse his misery, giving him the opportunity to respond to the plan of love that the Lord has for them, asking on his knees that, when He arrives there, Jesus may find faith in that land.” – Vatican News